Facing the Music

Melissa Spangenberg’s senior recital earlier this month may have had the largest performing cast of any such event at the College.

The 22-year-old Quakertown composer, who plans to teach middle-school music, played her own “Sarabande” and other works for piano. Then she was joined by Kay Leavy ’03, who sang “Tehillim,” a setting of Psalms 142 and 143 in the original Hebrew; the Moravian Women’s Chorus and a string quartet, who performed “The Great Light”; and the Moravian Choir, a flute trio, and organ, with “True Light,” a setting of verses from the Gospel of St. John, which she wrote for the 2001 Christmas Vespers.

Melissa is fascinated by light, which she expresses in the form of music. Light is a metaphor of the spirit, and most of her work (so far) is explicitly religious. She is the oldest of nine children, two of whom (she and her brother, who attends Lehigh University) are in college, and the family still goes to church together every Sunday at Lehigh Valley Baptist Church in Emmaus.

Even her piece for the 2002 Vespers service, which has no words and is played by a flute ensemble, is rooted in a sacred text. Melissa found verses to a hymn in a collection by the 16th-century.

Moravian community called the Böhmische Brüder (Bohemian brethren). She listened to the words until they suggested a melody to her, which became the foundation of her flute piece. The poet, as it turned out, was one Cyriakus Spangenberg. Neither he nor nor Augustus Spangenberg, for whom a Moravian dorm is named, is any relation to her, so far as she knows—“believe it or not!” she smiles. As for her creative streak, part of it comes from being home-schooled by her mother. And her father, an industrial designer, is “the arts one, where a lot of my creativity comes from,” she says. She has been arranging hymns since she was 14, and her method as a composer hasn’t changed much since then. When she finds a text she likes, “I sit down at the piano and make up a tune,” she says. “I just play what the piece says.”

November 26, 2002

Betty and Pancho
Preview of Payne Gallery exhibit, works by Elizabeth Catlett and Francisco Mora.

Facing the Music
Student composer Melissa Spangenberg '03 writes another piece for Christmas Vespers.
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American premiere of documentary about Holocaust rescuer Nicholas Winton.
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