Parker, Alice

Alice Parker, internationally renowned composer, conductor, and teacher was born in Boston, MA in 1925. She began composing as a young child, and wrote her first orchestral score while still in high school. She graduated from Smith College with a major in music performance and composition, and then received her master's degree from the Juilliard School where she studied choral conducting with Robert Shaw. As Shaw began to organize the Robert Shaw Chorale, he enlisted the young Parker to do research and create choral arrangements for the new touring and recording ensemble. The many Parker/Shaw settings of American folksongs, hymns and spirituals from that period form an enduring repertoire for choruses all around the world.

Ms. Parker continued to work on her own compositions and arrangements and has composed in all the choral forms from opera to cantata, from sacred anthems to songs on texts by distinguished poets. She has been commissioned by such well-known groups as Chanticleer, the Vancouver Chamber Singers, and the Atlanta Symphony, as well as hundreds of community, school and church choruses. Her works appear in the catalogs of a dozen publishing companies.

In 1985, singers and choral directors who had been fired by her talent and zeal, convinced her to start Melodious Accord, Inc. an organization dedicated to presenting and recording folk and contemporary music. The Musicians of Melodious Accord, a 16-voice professional chamber chorus, has presented concerts, made recordings, encouraged new composers, and inspired audiences to explore their own impulse to sing. Their recordings include the recently released CD O Sing the Glories, anthems composed and arranged by Alice Parker, as well as Sweet Manna, early American hymns; King and the Duke, a tribute to Martin Luther King and Duke Ellington; Take Me To The Water, spirituals, and Transformations, American hymns and folk songs. Recently Melodious Accord, Inc., and The Musicians of Melodious Accord, have embarked on The Alice Parker Recording Project, a major recording program to document and preserve Ms. Parker's original compositions. Generous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Aaron Copland Music Fund, and the New York State Council on the Arts, along with the contributions of many individual donors have supported the project. This series of recordings of sacred and secular music includes My Love and I, and, Listen, Lord. Angels and Challengers: American Women Poets in Song, which will present Parker settings of the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, May Sarton and Elinor Wylie, and The Family Reunion, one of four Parker folk operas, are currently in progress.

Alice Parker continues to win converts to the cause of choral music. Through the Melodious Accord Fellowship Program, mid-career professional musicians are brought together for inspiration and refreshment in their teaching, composing and conducting under her mentorship. Her techniques have encouraged a generation of music teachers and choral conductors to think about music and the act of conducting in new ways. No less an authority than Robert Shaw himself has said of Parker that "she possesses a rare and creative musical intelligence."

Now a resident of western Massachusetts, Ms. Parker has published books on melodic styles, choral improvisation and "Good Singing in Church". Five videos have been released showing her work with hymns and folksongs. Ms. Parker serves on the Board of Chorus America, and was honored by them, the American Guild of Organists, and the Hymn Society in her seventy-fifth year. She has also been recognized through the establishment of the Alice Parker-ASCAP-Chorus America Award, which honors members of Chorus America who enlarge the choral repertoire by moving in new directions. Most recently her contributions to the regional, as well as the national choral music scene, were acknowledged with the Nathan Gottschalk Memorial Award from the Pioneer Valley Symphony & Chorus and a Lifetime Achievement award from Choral Arts of New England. Ms. Parker is the recipient of four honorary doctorates and the Smith College medal. Her enthusiasm for her work continues unabated, as she fills commissions for original choral works, conducts performances and workshops, and creates circles of music making wherever she goes.

Choral music by Alice Parker

View New Releases by Alice Parker