Alice Parker —
Singing Is the Most Companionable of Arts

Singing is able to touch and join human beings in ways few other arts can. Alice Parker is a wise and joyful thinker and writer on this truth, and has been a hero in the universe of choral music as a composer, conductor, and teacher for most of her 90 years. She began as a young woman, studying conducting with Robert Shaw at Juilliard, and collaborated with him on arrangements of folk songs, spirituals, and hymns that are still performed around the world today.

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is the artistic director of the non-profit Melodious Accord and is the author of Melodious Accord: Good Singing in Church. She collaborated with the Robert Shaw Chorale for 20 years and has composed operas, cantatas, and suites for chamber ensembles, as well as hundreds of anthems and songs. CDs of her compositions and arrangements include My Love and I and Take Me to the Water.

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Alice Parker conducts a chorus in Missouri for her non-profit music organization, Melodious Accord.

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She is radiant. She is generous of heart and spirit. She sings for a living with great joy. Her name is Susie Burke and on Wednesday nights, we get to join her in "Singing for the Joy of It." We gather in a circle (though we sometimes dance down the hallways, too) and she teaches us song after song, mostly rounds, in a call-and-response style that is comfortable for all. We are forever surprising ourselves as we add new songs weekly to our growing repertoire. And every night, she pulls out her guitar and plays beautiful songs while teaching us the chorus. She is a healer, though she would never claim that title. And hers is a healing circle. How could it not be -- a group of blending voices singing for the joy of it? And this past year, we witnessed as she and her musician husband and daughters moved through some devastating times, singing all the while. Giving their gift of music, all the while. Sharing for the joy of it.

Choral singing , whether 2 or a thousand if done beautifully demands brain synchronization on so many levels that a chorus is truly one voice. This is certainly a genetic remnant from tribal societies or even before. To a lesser extent all music requires this synchronization but vocalization is so fundamental that it involves most of the brain. All must be in sync with the composer/arranger (Brava, Alice Parker) even if not physically present. For me, the music of the composer/arranger is somehow, call it magic but I think it is more fundamental than that, is embedded in the score that the chorus can resonate with. The melodies, the rhythms, the harmonies and the tempos are of course simply marks on some place holder. But when performed all come together to recreate the mind of the composer/arranger.
More eventually at

I remember meeting Alice at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in 1988. What a rare experience!

As we rise up to block Twitter-fascism, we need powerful anthems to sing as we march. Alice Parker, will you write one? Recommend? I would love to hear a million women singing a deep, stirring, loving song as they march on Washington--church-sounding, to catch the ear of our fellow-citizens who have been so deceived in this election. Krista, will you pass this request along? And thank you for letting us hear this great voice.

Exactly what I've been longing for, Jessie! As I consider this next great movement toward a women-powered world, I don't think we can get there soon enough without great songs. We need them as much as we need great speakers, organizers, and masses of grassroots supporters. As I recall the civil rights movement of the '60's, I am certain that forward motion and some great successes were created in large part because we had songs that impelled everyone to sing as one, and then to feel we were one. I hope Alice may have a reply for you, and for us all. See you in the Capital!

At this moment it is the. Third Sunday in Advent and all over America, churches large and small are preparing for the Christmas Eve services, and choirs are working on seasonal anthems for each Sunday and for special services. Thousands of voices are being raised, all striving for tone, al breathing as one. This episode is well worth a listen, whether you can sing or not. And your local choir would LOVE it if you turn up to hear them sing!

During this very troublesome period in American history I am reaching for singing and music opportunities as much
as possible. I sing with a women's choral ensemble and we will sing to residents of an assisted living home this week, I can't wait!
Our repertoire is so perfect in choral glorious sound, I can't wait to see their faces light up as we all connect through the
the language of music. Thank you for this wonderful hour with Alice Parker, it was a perfect morning 'breakfast' for me!

Singing in a chorus is something that everyone can enjoy. I'd love to join a community group if I could find one in my area.

If you are in the Chicago area, consider us.....we'd love to have you!!

I was traveling home after performing a holiday concert with my chorus called Confluence: Willamette Valley LGBT Chorus. Then to hear Alice Parker describing what we had experienced just a couple hours earlier; the joy of making music with a community and performing it in community. I am still glowing from the joy of these twin inspirations, singing with my community and hearing Alice talk so passionately about how singing affects people.

I enjoyed listening to this piece. Reminded me of my young grandson expressing himself musically. I'm not sure who all can view this video of him, but I think it exemplifies the music of young children:

Dear Krista,

Thank you for the show in general - it regularly moves my anxious mind. I'm a Millennial who should have been born in the 1790s - a painfully old soul and an HSP with a mind deeper than its own good.

More positively, I am overjoyed to have heard an episode on a topic so close to my heart. I'm a pianist and an opera singer, and my voice teacher and I have a deep spiritual bond over many of the themes shared in this episode (which I have enthusiastically sent her way today). This interview has moved me, almost to tears. So many memories come to light: from early childhood piano lessons and participation in Catholic Mass as a chorus singer, to high school piano recitals and talent shows, to reflections from my adult cantoring and opera performance. I even hear songs in this interview that I got to study in college, with the Brown U Chorus. I have been blessed to experience (as a student/young amateur) alot of the dynamics that Mrs. Parker mentions, and I'm forever grateful. It's just so amazing to hear about her journey and passion.

The universality of music is beyond precious, and I am totally and utterly inspired by Mrs. Parker's work, and her evangelism for the Arts. Thank you for everything you share with us via On Being - but I thank you especially for this episode. Made my day, and probably my week.

Thanks, peace, and love.

I heard Alice Parker for the first time on PBS radio this past Sunday and absolutely agree with her about the affect of music in our lives. This certainly explains the experience of singing in a group, be it choir or congregation, and the relationships one develops with the other singers. I am delighted to learn more about her and the wisdom of her experience.

Alice - So good to hear about you once again. No way to emphasize enough the great joy of everybody singing together as many of us have done with you so often. Your influence is beyond measure. Just keep hummin'..........................

Perhaps of interest:

Like a bird on a wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir,
I have tried, in my way, to be free. ...

How beautiful. Had to wipe away tears more than once. Singing as intuitive. Necessary. I too believe we all need it. Thanks for making one of my 'hobbies' feel important. Music IS important, to so many people, and we so easily can write it off as something to do 'for fun'. It's a rope for the weary and a hand for the lost. I feel honored to have listened to this and am sending the songs I heard to my brothers who would certainly appreciate them in the deepest and sweetest way.

What is the "she came to me in my sleep" song?

Thank you!

Unlike my Christian friends, I was born into a religious tradition (Orthodox Judaism) that hasn't had a strong choral tradition for roughly 2000 years (not since our Levites sang and played in the Temple in Jerusalem).

Even so, we had a school choir in our lower/middle school, and I sang in it.

Later, at a time in my life that needed some deep soulfulness, I joined a Jewish community choir. It was such a joy that I graduated to sing with one of the finest Jewish choirs in the country, eventually singing with them at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the White House. There's nothing that compare with singing in a first class choir.

As Alice says and I've experienced, there's a tremendously strong communal experience in singing. Our local congregation is called "Rinat Yisrael" ("Joy/Song/Singing of Israel"). Rabbi Jonathan Sacks visited us for a Sabbath. Before his sermon he remarked that we were indeed true to our name. There's nothing like that experience of communal song as prayer!

For many years I've had the privilege of recording the Angelica Women's Chamber Choir's CDs. If you like women's choirs, please look them up on the web.

Such a marvelous remembrance of my time in New York, while at Juilliard and also singing with the Chorale, and of course knowing Tom Pyle and having dinner in your apartment. I did get to visit with Florence in recent years before she passed away. My daughter lives in Atlanta and so all of my visits with her included seeing Florence again.

As for me I'm living in Arlington close to another daughter. My wife, Demain Donley, died eight years ago, but with twenty grandchildren, and my five children, I have much joy visiting them frequently.

I send my best wishes and regards!

Bill Whitesides