Wichita State News
Photo: Jeff Tuttle
Members of the WSU Women's Choir, named Las Voces Dulces by director John Paul Johnson (not pictured), have been rehearsing diligently for their benefit performance of the emotionally difficult "Where I Live," an oratorio about breast cancer.

Women's Choir to sing breast cancer oratorio

Monday, April 18, 2011

In a special breakout event, Las Voces Dulces, the women’s choir at Wichita State University, will give a benefit performance of “Where I Live,” an emotional oratorio about breast cancer, to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure Mid-Kansas Affiliate.

The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28, at Grace Memorial Chapel on the WSU campus. There is no ticket or admission price for the event, but freewill donations will be gratefully accepted and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Local radio celebrity and weather forecaster Cathy Carrier, FM 102.1, will be the guest narrator. The singers will be accompanied by the WSU String Quartet.

John Paul Johnson, director of Las Voces Dulces for the WSU School of Music, describes “Where I Live” as a moving work that chronicles the struggle faced by women as they receive a diagnosis of cancer, surgery, treatment, recovery and a hopeful future.

The seven-movement piece, by Minnesota composer Diane Benjamin, is a difficult one for singers because virtually everybody knows someone with cancer, said Johnson.

Somebody's mother, somebody's sister, somebody's lover, somebody's very best friend, somebody's daughter, somebody's neighbor, somebody's wife, somebody could be me.

John Paul Johnson
John Paul Johnson
Early rehearsals for "Where I Live,'' known as “the breast cancer oratorio,” were predictably tough, Johnson said.

“The singers have to learn to overcome their own emotions,” he said, referring to the many unflinching parts of the work, both tender and brutal, that have brought many of the young women to tears.

“It’s been a great piece to bring everybody together,” Johnson said of “Where I Live” and the 22 female students who are mastering the work.

Johnson has asked his singers to reflect on the overriding themes of “Where I Live”: hope, compassion, comfort, joy, support, love.

Don't tell me to quit reading about it. Help me laugh. Help me laugh. Don't tell me how great I'm doing. Forgive me everything. Forgive me everything, everything.

‘Where I Live’ background
Johnson became familiar with “Where I Live” as director of choral activities at the University of Kansas. The KU women’s choir performed the work as a benefit for the KU Medical Center.
Benjamin, the composer, was a member of the Calliope Women’s Choir when a member of the ensemble was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2000 Benjamin compiled and wrote texts and composed “Where I Live.”

Since its premiere, this seven-movement work has been performed numerous times throughout the nation by female choirs as an opportunity to focus on women’s health and the fight against breast cancer.

About the director
Johnson has more than 30 years’ teaching experience in college, public school and church as well as administrative work in Kansas, Texas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

He served the University of Kansas as a professor of music, director of graduate studies and director of choral activities, and has taught at Texas State University - San Marcos and at Lampeter-Strasburg High School in Pennsylvania. He serves as the national chair of Repertoire and Standards at the college and university level for the American Choral Directors Association.

Johnson, whose choirs have sung at conventions and internationally-acclaimed festivals and premieres, has presented at conferences of the Music Educators National Conference, the American Choral Directors Association, and the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association. He was a member of the Kodaly teacher training faculty at the University of Central Missouri.

He has been Conductor-In-Residence at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw, Poland, and Trinity College of Music in London, England, and has conducted numerous concerts at Carnegie Hall.

He has served as guest conductor, clinician and consultant for the Ministry of Education in Singapore and for more than 600 events throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. Johnson earned music education degrees from Westminster College (PA) and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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Created on Monday, April 18, 2011; Last modified on Friday, April 22, 2011