Songs of Pioneer Women Performance on February 12th

Dr. Sharon Campbell
Department of Music, 308.865.8618, 308.224.3252 or 308.224.7080, e-mail:

UNK- “Songs of Pioneer Women: Four Contemporary Women Performing Music and Stories of Historic Courage” will be the featured performance for the Thursday, Feb. 12, Concerts-on-the-Platte series presentation at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

The performance, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the UNK Fine Arts Recital Hall. The performance is one of two presentations that will take place Thursday. In addition, there will be an afternoon lecture.

The evening performance was created by Kansas City vocalist and director Sylvia Stoner of Leawood, Kan., and features a new composition by University of Kansas at Lawrence composer Dr. Forrest Pierce. Performers will include Stoner, soprano; Sarah Tannell of Overland Park, Kan., soprano; Dr. Sharon Campbell, UNK assistant professor of music, mezzo-soprano; and Ellen Bottorff of Tonganoxie, Kan., piano.

Dr. Campbell describes “Songs of Pioneer Women” as a “unique and innovative form. It is a staged compilation of first-person narrative, folk song, art song and operatic aria that culminates in a new work, Pierce’s ‘Cassie Leaves Nebraska,’ designated ‘an operatic trio.’

“These works together form a cohesive story representing many facets of the experiences of pioneer women and 20th century western women,” she said, adding, “Much of the music has been written since 1950 by three living composers–Andre Previn, Libby Larsen and Forrest Pierce.”

In conjunction with the concert, composer Dr. Forrest Pierce will present a 2 p.m. lecture titled “The Voice of a Composition: A Male Composer’s Perspective on Composing for and About Women.” The lecture will be presented in the Fine Arts Building Choral Room, Room 263.

According to Dr. Campbell, he will present on his approach to composing vocal works both from male texts written in female voices and female texts written by women, as well as exploring the notion of childbirth viewed through his own male lens. Performances by the concert artists of Pierce’s works will serve to illustrate the discussion.

“Particularly relevant to the Kearney community is ‘Cassie Leaves Nebraska,'” Dr. Campbell said. “It is generated from Pierce’s grandmother’s diaries about her life as a dustbowl farmer in Franklin County. In the composer’s words, ‘It’s not a story of epic heroism, of ordinary people overcoming incredible odds; rather it’s a story of the perfectly ordinary heroism of the women who kept the houses and farms of the prairies….Hot wind, cold wind, burnt crops, hens too cold to lay.'”

Both the performance and the lecture are funded by a UNK Faculty Senate Artists and Lecturers Committee grant.