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March 20, 2018

SVSU choir to perform world premiere of Roethke poems set to music

Cardinal SingersSaginaw Valley State University’s vocal ensemble Cardinal Singers will perform into history when they sing a musical composition of “The Voice,” a poem written by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning Saginaw native Theodore Roethke.
Scott Hyslop, director of parish music at St. Lorenz Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth, composed original music to accompany the poem, which will be debut to a live audience Sunday, March 25 at 4 p.m. at St. Lorenz during a concert by SVSU’s Cardinal Singers. The group also will perform in concert Monday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU’s Rhea Miller Recital Hall.
Both performances are part of the 2018 Roethke Poetry and Arts Festival hosted by SVSU at locations throughout Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region.
Kevin Simons, associate professor of music at SVSU, will direct the choir.
“These pieces are different than other songs we have done before,” said Simons. “They’re difficult and weird. They're all 21st century, so this show has more modern music than our past performances.”
The music selected for this concert is unpredictable and interesting to listen to. Even those who are not familiar with Roethke's work will enjoy this show immensely, Simons said.
To prepare for their big debut, the SVSU student vocalists were given a crash course on Roethke and his poetry.
“This really gave us an opportunity to focus on the text,” said Claire Barckholtz, a music education major from Hemlock.
The ensemble also will sing Roethke’s poem “The Shy Man,” using a composition by professional composer Paul Carey, who plans to travel from Chicago to attend the concert.
Simons is proud of the Cardinal Singers for the hours of determined study that have gone into preparing for the concerts.
“The students have really risen to the occasion,” Simons said. “They've been able to sing these pieces really well, and I am extremely proud of all of them.”
Sponsored by SVSU, the Theodore Roethke Poetry and Arts Festival, a triennial celebration of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning poet from Saginaw, will take place in venues across the Great Lakes Bay Region from March 23-28. All events are free and open to the public, funded in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
For a full schedule of activities, visit