Wichita State News
Photo: Anthony Marrone
Liz Simmons, member of the Wichita State Women's Choir, is singing in the choir's performance of "Where I Live." The piece is a breast cancer oratorio that has made it difficult for members of the choir to keep emotions in check during rehearsals.

Performance of 'Where I Live' puts strain on singer's emotions

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Liz Simmons has been singing in choirs since she was in the fourth grade. Now, as a singer in the Wichita State University Women’s Choir, she is experiencing something new: rehearsing a piece that connects singers and audience to the fear and impact of cancer.

The choir, named Las Voces Dulces, meaning The Sweet Voices, is working on “Where I Live,” a powerful and moving oratorio about breast cancer that almost everyone can relate to. The seven-movement piece will be performed on April 28 in Grace Memorial Chapel on WSU.

Although there is no admission, free-will donations are encouraged, and 100 percent of those proceeds will benefit the Susan G. Komen For the Cure, Mid-Kansas Affiliate.

“I feel really happy and proud that we’re doing something to benefit Komen because they do such important work for women,” said Liz Simmons, member of the WSU Women’s Choir. “It’s nice to give back to them.”

A powerful performance

Simmons is in her second year at WSU. This is also her second year in women’s choir. She graduated from Great Bend High School in 2008 and has felt the direct effects of breast cancer. One of Simmons’ cousins survived her battle with the disease. Her best friend from elementary school lost her mother to breast cancer at age 7.

“There are some movements that are really hard for me to get through without getting really emotional,” Simmons said. “I’m remembering my friend going through that.”

Simmons’ knows the music will be a powerful performance that will help the audience see and feel many of the same emotions.

“The music itself is just beautiful and we’re hoping to do it justice,” she said.

Simmons’ attitudes reflect the way the rest of the choir feels as well.

“The Women’s Choir members are extremely proud of what they’re doing,” said John Paul Johnson, director of the choir and professor in the School of Music. “They’ve just been singing really well and they’ve been singing up to their potential.”

The performance of “Where I Live” features songs titled “Help Me” and “Peace.” It has seven songs altogether and will end with a surprise performance by the choir.

“I think anyone who comes to this is going to find it to be emotional and find it to be uplifting,” Johnson said. “It’s like every rehearsal is a celebration.”

Johnson talked about the emotion behind the pieces and what he’s had to do to keep those from boiling over.

“We’ve really had to keep the rehearsals light,” he said, “not necessarily focusing on the emotion that’s in most of these pieces.”

“Where I Live” was commissioned in 1999 and still receives extensive performances across the country.

“It’s a really cool opportunity to have,” Simmons said. “It’s different from the usual concerts we do.”

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Created on Wednesday, April 27, 2011; Last modified on Wednesday, April 27, 2011