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Discovery Newsletter

Volume 12Discovery NewsletterIssue 8Discovery NewsletterMay 2001

Main PageGrants CornerFeatured StoriesIn Focus


MSU Choral Scholars Sing Local Evensong


by Annette Trinity-Stevens

Montana State University-Bozeman is stepping up its studies on animal diseases by joining forces with a Texas university.

The two institutions have created a consortium between the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University in College Station and the Center for Bison and Wildlife Health at MSU.

Clown

Every Sunday afternoon during the school year, Kim Eggemeyer pulls a red robe and white cotta over her head, drapes a gold cross around her neck and gathers her hymnal, chant book and sheet music.

In a few minutes, she and 19 other students from Montana State University will participate in a centuries-old religious practice of contemplating the close of one day and spiritually preparing for the next.

Eggemeyer and the other students are choral scholars at St. James Episcopal Church in Bozeman. Each Sunday, the group sings a 5:30 p.m. Evensong service that fills the 125-year-old church with worshippers of all denominations.

From the opening hymn to the closing prayer, the entire service is sung following an Anglican choral tradition dating back to 16th-century England.

"I really, really love this service," said Eggemeyer, a senior in music. "It's a musician's dream as far as a church service goes because it's got a meditative quality to the whole service."

"I think it's the most beautiful service there is," agreed St. James parishioner Doris Salsbury. It was Salsbury and her husband, John, who agreed four years ago to fund the program in memory of the Rev. John McGrory, who was the rector at St. James for 17 years. He died in 1997 shortly before the choir was formed.

Each student receives an $800 scholarship per semester. They practice each Friday afternoon and again on Sunday before the service, which is held throughout the school year.

Many of the scholars are music or music education majors, although that isn't required, and most aren't Episcopalian, said the Rev. Jane Shipp. Shipp directs the choir and oversees the St. James campus ministry.

Shipp had long been interested in having a student choir to do Evensong, a service held almost daily at large cathedrals in the U.S. and in England but almost unheard of in a town the size of Bozeman.

Choir member Jessica Counts, a senior in music education from Bozeman, heard about the scholarship through St. James and said the money will help finance a trip to Italy this summer.

Senior Luke Preston heard about the choir from friends in the music department and likes the strong feeling of community he has with the group.

"I got stopped once and asked if I was in Evensong," Preston recalled. "Then they asked if I would sing something for them."

The scholarship means he can work fewer hours at his Fieldhouse job and concentrate more on school.

"It's nice to get paid for something you love to do anyway," said Preston.

MSU music professor Lowell Hickman said the students benefit from the additional singing experience and from performing music as it appears in its environment.

"So often we take choral music out of its original context and place it in a performance hall," he said.

"I'm not sure they understand yet how important this experience is for them," he added. "But they will."

The only drawback the students mentioned was the Sunday evening commitment, which can cut into travel time to their hometowns or time they might spend studying.

The students praised the Salsburys for providing the scholarships and for showing such interest in them and their activities. Eggemeyer said Doris Salsbury attends her voice and flute recitals and has invited her nine-year-old daughter to tea parties. Twice the Salsburys have invited the choir to their house for meals.

"She's so completely generous as a person and is genuinely interested in what the students are doing," Eggemeyer said. "She's just a dear person."

Salsbury answers that she and her husband were motivated in part by self interest. She admits to being "just plain starved" for something like Choral Evensong. She's glad it benefits the community and the students.

"I just sit and watch their faces and know that it's something special in their lives, and it happens at such a good time in their lives, don't you think?" she said.

Annette Trinity-Stevens is the MSU Research Editor.

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