By Sally K. Albrecht
During the recent national ACDA (American Choral Directors’ Association) convention in Dallas, I had the extreme pleasure of getting to know Alice Parker. This choral treasure is a non-stop, energizer-battery lady, full of wit and wisdom. For over 60 years, her love of teaching has touched thousands of lives and voices. She has truly created a community of musicians through her work.
Composer, arranger, conductor, and teacher Alice Parker was born in Boston, MA, in 1925. She is a graduate of Smith College and the Juilliard School of Music, where she began her long association with Robert Shaw. Their arrangements form an enduring repertoire for choruses around the world. She has influenced many composers, conductors, and singers through seminars held at conventions, colleges, churches, and in her home. Ms. Parker continues to be active as a composer, with many cantatas, choral suites, and octavos published in recent years. She was named the first Director Laureate by Chorus America in 2012, is a Fellow of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada, and is the recipient of many honors and awards—including ACDA’s 2013 Robert Shaw Choral Award.
During our “The Legacy of Lawson-Gould” interest session at the convention, Ms. Parker explained her arranging process and the working relationship that she and Mr. Shaw enjoyed. She researched the music, sketched out the arrangements, then presented them to Mr. Shaw, who marked changes and suggestions as he heard them. It was a wonderful collaboration, which resulted in many subsequent performances, publications, and recordings by the Robert Shaw Chorale. She instructed us to first read the text for its true meaning, reminding us to make those “flat dots” and words on the page come to life. Then she concentrated on the melody, pointing out the line and the rhythms. Finally, she encouraged us to communicate the combination of the words and the melody in a new way, using our own voices.
Ms. Parker’s energy, expertise, and musical spirit captured us all as she led us in song through several of her favorite Parker-Shaw arrangements, giving us time-tested pointers along the way!
>Please visit melodiousaccord.org for more information on studying with Alice Parker.