March 7, 2013
(Courtesy University Communications)
DAVIS, Calif. - She never missed the UC Davis symphony, and now the orchestra and the University and Alumni choruses are playing and singing the Edward Elgar oratorio The Dream of Gerontius for her: the late Marya Welch. She had a 65-year association with the university, as a pioneer in women's athletics and as a supporter of the arts, up until her death at age 95 in June.
The concert in her memory is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday (March 10) in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, as the first in a series of quarter-ending concerts by performing groups from the Department of Music. Also on the calendar: the Concert and Campus bands, the Jazz bands, the Hindustani Vocal Ensemble, and the Early Music and Baroque Chamber ensembles.
The Dream of Gerontius
The Sacramento Opera Chorus joins the University and Alumni choruses for the program, which features Wesley Rogers, tenor (Gerontius); Kendall Gladen, mezzo-soprano (Angel); and Kevin Deas, bass-baritone (Priest-Angel of Agony).
Based on the Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman's poem of the same name, The Dream of Geronitus is thought amid English choral circles to be one of the big four, along with Messiah, The Creation and Elijah, according to Distinguished Professor D. Kern Holoman. He led the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra for 30 years until stepping down in 2008, and, now, as conductor emeritus, picks up the baton again for The Dream of Gerontius.
"Cardinal Newman's radiant poetry opens unseen worlds -- the passage from life to death, a soul's instant in the presence of God, the blissful wait for eternal afterlife," Holoman wrote as a contributor to the newly published Nineteenth-Century Choral Music.
"Elgar's setting is to be understood in the context of English Catholicism in the Victorian era, a minority position shared by both poet and composer. Many think The Dream of Gerontius his masterpiece, and certainly it is the work of an assured, unique voice at the peak of its powers."
In an interview with The Davis Enterprise, Holoman said The Dream of Gerontius "could not be a more apt meditation" on Welch's passing -- considering that she was a devout Catholic.
Upon her hiring in 1947, Welch became the ninth female faculty member on the Davis campus and the first in the Department of Physical Education. She was tasked with setting up a women's athletics program, and she did it with few precedents to guide her and with scarce resources.
Welch retired in 1987, was inducted into the Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991 and served as a grand marshal of the Picnic Day Parade eight years later. She received further honors in the naming of the Marya Welch Tennis Center and a section of The Colleges at La Rue (Marya Welch Court comprises four apartment buildings in the student housing complex).
Tickets for the chorus-orchestra, Concert and Campus bands, and Jazz bands are available through the Mondavi Center box office, in person, online or by phone: (530) 754-2787 or (877) 754-2787. The noon concert is free, and suggested donations for the Early Music and Baroque Chamber ensembles are $12 for adults, $6 for students and children.