Over the past year, Ohio Northern University has been celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding (1871 – 2021). To commemorate this momentous occasion, the school has hosted many events and activities emphasizing the history and legacy of this renowned institution.
As part of this celebration, I was asked to write a new composition to be premiered by the University Singers. I am pleased to say that the premiere performance was a great success! Written for mixed choir, piano, and string quartet, the piece is a tribute to ONU’s founder Henry Solomon Lehr (1838 – 1923). A singularly brilliant and devoted man, Lehr gave of his talents and treasures so that young people could be trained as teachers and educate future generations.
The text is taken from Walt Whitman’s poem As they draw to a close, from his Songs of Parting set. I selected this poem because it was published in 1871, the same year ONU was founded. Whitman’s words poignantly capture the essence of Lehr’s selfless giving (his time, his knowledge, his care for the students, teachers and community, etc.). The piece opens and closes with the words: “For them, for them have I lived, in them my work is done.”
Thus the title of this piece, “Of Hope and Remembrance” reflects a dual image — looking back at a man’s life with gratitude for the gifts we have inherited (because we are joined to this common history), and also looking forward with hope that we ourselves can likewise be vessels of giving in our own time.
The following is a link to the livestream performance. It is a recording of the entire University Singers’ Spring Concert; if you would like to hear Of Hope and Remembrance, you can find it at the 58-minute mark.
Thank you for listening!