Fairmont State University's Collegiate Singers and Chamber Choir will perform a concert at the First Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Jackson and Jefferson Streets in downtown Fairmont, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28.
The groups, under the direction of Dr. Sam Spears, will be performing a mostly American program including works by Copland, Rutter, Millard, Franklin, Billings and Bach. Several early American hymns and spirituals, as well as a Navaho prayer, will also be featured.
John Morrison, director of music and organist at First Presbyterian, will accompany the choirs. Admission to the concert is free, but a free-will offering be received.
The lives of two of the composers, in particular, were involved with significant events in American history.
William Billings, known as the "father of American choral music," was originally a tanner by trade. Billings had no formal music education, but his vigorous style would influence American psalmody for generations. Billings was a strong proponent of American independence. His patriotic anthem "Chester" was one of the most popular songs of the Revolutionary War period, and it has even been called the unofficial first national anthem of the United States.
Bostonian Harrison Millard's musical career actually began in Europe, where he sang professionally as an operatic tenor. In 1854, however, he returned to the United States and, at the outbreak of the Civil War, enlisted in the Union Army. Subsequently, he was severely wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga. After the war, he became a clerk in the New York Custom House, a day job that helped support a secondary career as a composer.