Adam McQuilkin

Dr. Phillip Andrew Rice, Patrick Bloniasz, and Matthew Barbosa stand together during a hiatus in the Honors Choir workshop last Wednesday. “The fact that the experience our choir shared potentially could be felt by performers all around the world is really all I could have asked for out of my work” said Bloniasz on his poem “Onsra” being adapted into a choir piece. His poem is based on experiences during a choir trip in the 2016-17 year and the feeling of “knowing a moment exists here and now, and may not ever exist again.”

Adam McQuilkin, Staff Writer

Last Wednesday, the Honors Choir and various members of the HB musical community participated in a workshop led by Dr. Philip Andrew Rice, a DMA in musical composition. Rice created a musical composition based on the work of HB’s Patrick Bloniasz ‘18, specifically a poem created after a trip with the Honors Choir.

Last year, the Hollis Brookline Honors Choir travelled to Princeton, NJ to attend the The American International Choral Festival, an annual festival dedicated to bring people together from different countries, cultures, and worldviews through the shared experience of music. The festival ran for four days, with HB also travelling to see a Broadway play and to work with the performers after the show.

Once the trip came to a close, Bloniasz spent the next six months touching up the poem that he created, entitled “Onsra,” a word from the Bodo Sino-Tibetan language of India. “Onsra has no translation to English,” said Bloniasz, “but the closest would be bittersweet feeling that occurs in those who know their love won’t last or to love for the last time.”

After sharing the poem with HB choir director Matthew Barbosa, Bloniasz didn’t think put much more thought into it. “From there, I touched it up in small ways for about six months, Bloniasz remarked, “but it has remained intact really since the night it was written.” While planning the curriculum for the coming year, Barbosa planned on using sheet music to create a new choir piece, but when he contacted Dr. Rice, his project changed to adapting Bloniasz’s piece for a performance. “The benefits are exponential for a number of reasons,” said Barbosa. “One, bringing in professionals from different aspects of our respective fields can act as a catalyst for our students who may not get a regular diet of that aspect in their classes. In regards to Dr. Rice, you have a working composer and poet who can not only inspire and develop the compositions and informed musicianship of our students, but also one that can detail the education, obstacles, difficulties, and wonders of becoming a composer in a more specific and nuanced manner.”

This creation of the piece was supplemented by avisit by Dr. Rice, which consisted of a two hour workshop for the HB Honors choir based on preparing the piece for future performance. While primarily for singers in our community, other members of the musical community attended the event as well. Amy Norton ‘19 was one of these individuals. Norton is a long-time instrumental composer, having created two major pieces (“Nebula” and “Winsor”) within the past few years. While Norton isn’t directly involved in the choir program, she said that “the highlight was listening to Dr. Rice’s compositions while viewing the scores on the projector. It allowed me as a composer to see the different devices he employed in his writing.” Norton also enjoyedlearning about Dr. Rice’s past work and how he draws inspiration from every aspect of his life.

In terms of the impact of the visit, Barbosa is optimistic about where events like this will bring the HB music department. “Anytime you have working professionals, especially at the level of our guests this year,” Barbosa said, “there is an explicit message of support and innovation for the ideals of our performing arts department, and more essentially, our student’s artistic development.” He looks forward to collaborating with more exemplary members of the music community, both this year and in the future.