By Amy Hanson / Assistant Director of Communications and Web Management
Creating a piece of music to encompass the works of a beloved teacher can be a tall order, but for Dr. Franklin “Frank” Gallo of Champaign, Ill., it was an opportunity to assemble his own piece of “The Cornerstone” in Silver Lake College’s musical history.“(Dr.) Rachel (Ware Carlton) and I were looking to find a way to commemorate all the things and service that Sister Lorna (Zemke) has given here at Silver Lake College,” Dr. Gallo said.
Sister Lorna Zemke is an internationally recognized Kodály Music Educator who is Emeritus Professor of Music at Silver Lake College.
Silver Lake College commissioned Dr. Gallo to create a musical work, entitled “The Cornerstone,” to honor Sister Lorna’s years of contribution. The musical composition for choir will be unveiled tonight during a free concert, part of an evening honoring Sister Lorna, at Silver Lake College’s Franciscan Music Center for Education and Performance, 2406 S. Alverno Road in Manitowoc. The concert is open to the public with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. and the performance beginning at 7 p.m. A reception will follow.
The name for the composition came from Sister Lorna being “a foundational figure” at Silver Lake College. It all started with the idea of bringing together what she has contributed to the foundation of the College’s music program and building upon that idea with the construction of the Franciscan Music Center for Education and Performance. From there, the idea of “cornerstone” came up, Dr. Gallo explained.
Sister Lorna was long-time Director of the Kodály Programs and Director of Graduate Music Studies at Silver Lake College. She has taught Kodály workshops and presented at conferences in 27 states and five foreign countries, including Australia, Greece and Japan. She has given presentations at more than 100 colleges and educational institutions throughout the United States, has published numerous articles and books, and won numerous awards for her work.
Dr. Gallo, a member of the faculty for Silver Lake College’s Kodály Summer Music Program, has held faculty positions at various universities and numerous public schools, along with serving as summer faculty at several colleges and universities.
He is a guest conductor, clinician, conference presenter and composer. Dr. Gallo also is past recipient of the Organization of Kodály Educators Ruth Boshkoff Composition Prize. His works are featured in the Ruth Dwyer Choral Series with Colla Voce Music, and in the Henry Leck Creating Artistry Series with the Hal Leonard Corp.
Traditionally, Dr. Gallo has worked with poetic text in the public domain from the early 20th and late 19th centuries to create his compositions. This is the first time that he is using prose, sacred text to be exact.
The lyrics in “The Cornerstone” come from Psalm 118: 22-24, traditional Easter text that makes reference to cornerstone. Dr. Gallo said the words clicked when referring to Sister Lorna and the Franciscan Music Center so it made sense to continue to build upon the theme he envisioned.
“The Cornerstone” includes a cantor to be performed by Dr. Ware Carlton, congregational parts that will call for audience participation, student solos and piano accompaniment.
“It’s a little bit more like art music,” Dr. Gallo explained, adding that people can expect to hear neoclassical and Handelian elements reminiscent of the Baroque period and a singable melody with 20th century harmonies. Because the text is prose, there is no metrical cohesion. This challenged Dr. Gallo to become more creative with the composition and develop harmonies to accentuate the new, catchy melody while still having broad appeal.
Those listening to the work may notice a composition technique Dr. Gallo calls “text painting,” in which the music sounds like the word being sung.
“I really enjoy doing that. It’s kind of fun for me. I try to create pictures with sound,” Dr. Gallo said.
While Dr. Gallo wanted to make the piece appropriate for Sister Lorna, he is excited it will have a life beyond tonight’s event.
“This piece will be sung at Silver Lake for future celebrations. Not only is that a great way to start off the school year, but also during the Easter season,” Dr. Gallo said.
He feels humble and fortunate to have returned to Silver Lake College’s Kodály Summer Music Program for 10 years now after Sister Lorna invited him to join the faculty when he was in his 20s.
When he joined the Kodály Summer Music Program faculty, he started by instructing the Choral Ensemble. The position has now grown to include teaching Advanced Conducting & Choral Literature and Solfege III as well.
Dr. Gallo is pleased to see the progression of students in a short period of time during the Kodály Summer Music Program. Material is presented to students in a sequential manner so they can continue to build upon their skills.
Dr. Gallo said it is important to remind students that they won’t be perfect in two weeks, but the goal is to become better and move along the path with skills they can do on their own and use in their professional life.
He also finds it rewarding to have a place to try out pieces that he selects and writes. This year, that includes his composition of “The House of the Rising Sun,” which will also be performed tonight during the choir concert.
Building a really strong community with Sister Lorna, Dr. Brent Gault and Dr. John Feierabend, has reinforced Dr. Gallo’s interest in returning to Silver Lake College and continuing the comradery.
“We really didn’t know each other very well 10 years ago and I think we all feel very fortunate now to call each other friends,” he said.