KC VITAs Spring Series 2023
KC VITAs Presents

2023 Spring Series Concerts

Asbury United Methodist Church
Friday, May 19 - 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 21 - 3 p.m.

Jackson C. Thomas, Artistic Director/Conductor

When I Rise Up

Ethan Soledad (TX)

Robert Pherigo, piano

Audrey Herren, cello

When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,

Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth,
And look down upon the things that fetter me.

Text by Georgia Douglas Johnson

Composer's Note:The poem “When I Rise Up,” written by notable African American poet and playwright of the Harlem Renaissance, Georgia Douglas Johnson, speaks of the author rising high above those who would attempt to hinder her. The fluttering cello and piano parts of the opening phrases depict birds as to symbolize Johnson literally soaring up to the clouds beyond the ties of the Earth. The final ending sequence calls back to the beginning when the choir repeats the phrase “When I rise,” but now it has turned into “I rise” symbolizing an immediate and almost apotheotic ascent. The final quasi-cadenza is taken up to the absolute highest note on the piano, representing Johnson’s ascension far beyond the grasp of anyone who has ever tried to impede her.

Ruminations and Affirmations

Amy Gordon (CA)

Robert Pherigo, piano

Is everything okay?
Is everything okay?
Am I okay? Are they okay?
What if it's never okay again?
Will I be okay? Will this be okay?
What if we're never okay again?
Something is wrong.
There's something wrong.
Is there something wrong?
There must be something wrong!
[Am I safe? Am I loved?
Am I sick? Am I well?]
[What if no one loves me?
What if I don't belong?
What if I don't ma9er?
What if?]
[How do I know when I can breathe?
How do I stop being afraid?
How will I know when to let go?]
[How can I stop these thoughts?
Why won't my mind calm down?
When will my brain unlock?]

(Breathe in, hold, then exhale)
See the sunlight through the leaves.
Feel the gently rustling breeze.
Hear the birds sing in the trees.
Smell the flowers blossoming.
Taste the salt air from the sea.
You can just be.
This will not last.
This too shall pass.
Just because I feel it,
doesn't mean it's real.
Don't live in the violent froth.
Dive into the deep where it's calm.
These thoughts are clouds
passing by.

Text by Amy Gordon

Three Hallucinations of Love

Isaac Lovedahl (ND)

1. A Chain Swings from Dark Heaven

3. Rules

Bryan Stenson, tenor

Robert Pherigo, piano


Frank Nawrot (KS)

Faded. Wrinkled. Curled.
Petals, soft, now dry. Brittle.
Still, sweet scent lingers

Text by R.E. Rule

Nothing New Under the Sun

Ashi Day (Washington, D.C.)

Text from Ecclesiastes 1:9

Composer's Note: This piece uses the line “nothing new under the sun,” from Ecclesiastes 1:9: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” The phrase is broken down into 10 phonemes, or concrete sounds, as I hear them. Each voice introduces the smallest element—a single phoneme, with a single note, and possibly another musical quality. But, after each element is introduced, each voice is written as if improvising, free to combine all previous elements in a variety of ways.
The idea is that the music echoes a collaborative creative process that emphasizes not individual genius but the creation of an ecosystem in which innovation and creativity are possible: musical components, once introduced, are allowed to combine, collide, coalesce, build. Eventually, motifs, melodies, and countermelodies form, as well as syllables, words, and eventually the full phrase. It is through our interaction with others in an ecosystem that provides opportunities for risk taking and collaboration that our ideas can expand to become far more than what we’d ever reach on our own.
It can be easy for people seeking to be creative to feel the weight of everything that came before them, the weight of ‘the masters,’ and to question whether their work is ‘innovative enough.’ This piece is born from the recognition that usually the greatest innovations were built upon the work of those who came before as well as from the support of other people and the right environment. The piece turns the phrase from Ecclesiastes on its head, reveling in the ability to build collaboratively on the ideas of others to create something that, brand new or not, can express human joy and truth of experience. By the time the phrase is fully stated, it should indeed feel as if new things have come about, even though everything came from simple, unremarkable origins.

I Am Not A Vessel

Richard Risi (NE)


Max Addae (NJ)

When I Go Back To Earth

Jackson Thomas (MO)

Dedicated to Kevin Sweeney and Amy Rosenfeld in memory of the late Mary Ann Sweeney (1937-2023).

When I go back to earth
And all my joyous body
Puts off the red and white
That once had been so proud,
If men should pass above
With false and feeble pity,
My dust will find a voice
To answer them aloud:

“Be still, I am content,
Take back your poor compassion—
Joy was a flame in me
Too steady to destroy.
Lithe as a bending reed
Loving the storm that sways her—
I found more joy in sorrow
Than you could find in joy.”

Text by Sara Teasdale

Oppa is a Free Spirit

trad. Korean folk song "Manyo", arr. Jee Seo (South Korea)

Stella Dayrit Roden, Erin Jean Lillie, Austin Welhoff, Timothy Billingsley; soloists

1 Oppa is a free spirit, you know, oppa is a naughty boy, you know
Oh my god, oh my god, stealing all my food, oh my god!
2 Bulgogi and 3 tteok-bokki for him, but only cucumber pickle and bean sprouts for me
Oppa is a greedy boy, oppa is a mean boy, oppa is a stingy fellow.

Oppa is a nitpicker, you know, oppa is a crab, you know
I don't want, I don't want, sneaking a peek at my letter, I don't want!
He goes to the theater alone, but cheats me when he sends me on an errand
Oppa is an excuser, oppa is a fidgeter, opa is a nitpicker.

Oppa is a drunken brawler, you know, oppa is a drunkard, you know
Oh my god, oh my god, coming home drunk late at night, oh my god!
Late at work every day, fumes and frets over low salary
Oppa is a stroppy boy, oppa is a drunkard, oppa is a blowhard.

translated by Talksong Lee
1 Oppa literally means "older brother of a female person" in Korea. Females use this title for their older brother, older male friend, or even in a flirtatious way.
2 Bulgogi: (sliced and seasoned) barbequed beef
3 Tteok-bokki: Stir-fried Rice Cake

This piece is a very rare arrangement for a cappella chorus of Manyo. Manyo is a joke song with full of playfulness and humor; it refers to the genre of comic song which has appeared during the 1930s in Korea. The original song, 'Oppa Is a Strolling Musician (옵빠는 풍각쟁이/ Oppa-neun pung-gag jaeng-i)' is a well-known manyo from 1930s. - Jee Seo

Let My Country Awake

Jessie Leov (New Zealand)

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Text by Rabindranath Tagore

The text used in this piece can be found in Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore's collection of devotional poetry, Gitanjali. This collection was originally published in 1910 in Bengali, and was subsequently published in English in 1912 as part of Song Offerings - an anthology of Tagore's own English translations of his work.

The profound words of this poem paint an evocative picture of an awakened nation where knowledge, reason and truth abound, free from the strains of oppression and inequality. This prayer speaks directly to the challenges we face today, over 100 years later, as we seek peace and enlightenment in our nations.


Katie Brunkhorst
Lucy Conklin
Danielle Enriquez-Fowler
Katie Fischer
Theresa Peterson
Stella Dayrit Roden


Gwendolyn DeLaney
Morgan Gibson
Page Gravely
Kirsten Hyde
Erin Lillie
Kaitlyn York


Josh Donaldson
Kota Hayton
Andrew Sanders
Bryan Stenson
Nathan Sullins
Austin Welhoff


Brett Anderson
Timothy Billingsley
Chad Fischer
Carter Hintz
Robby Rusca
Austen Schoenborn

Special Thanks

Asbury United Methodist Church
Charles Dickinson
The Simpson House
Martha Lee Cain Tranby Music Enrichment Fund

Thank you to our 2022 Donors for making this possible!

Charles Ballew
Monte Billingsley
Judy Christiansen
Heather Edvenson
Roger & Peggy Edvenson
John Ellington
Brad & Mary Footh
Melissa Gard
Kent & Fran Gard
Jack & Marilyn Gregory
Julie & Charles Hayton
Timothy Hazlett
Mark & Rita Hyde
Eric & Debra Justin
Jesse Lobbs
Kathy McGinness
Helene Miller
Patrick Neas
Dale Ramsey
John Schaefer
Jessica Stone
Kevin & Erika Sweeney
Angela Thornton-Millard
Phil & Laurie Toepfer
Peter Tremain
Emily Tummons

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