University Concert Choir is filing into rehearsal on a springtime
Monday afternoon, dropping their backpacks, stretching, and catching
up on the days news as they take their places on the Schwartz
Centers Emerson Hall stage. But theres a palpable
tension in the air.
can probably smell the fear in the room, confides Eric
Nelson, Emory choral director and associate professor of music.
choir will hold its year-end concert on Thursday, yet theyve
only had the sheet music for one of the central pieces for a
couple of weeks. The composition, written by Nelsons Russian
colleague and friend Peter Klimov, is challenging, and this
choir is not accustomed to stumbling over notes and words just
days before a performance.
a few moments later, Klimov himself, along with conductor Valery
Kalinin, enters the room, just off the plane from Russia. The
two have come as Nelsons guests; Kalinin will be conducting
Klimovs piece during Thursdays concert. Nelson embraces
them warmly, then introduces the visitors to the choir. Suddenly
the room is charged with more excitement than nerves; the afternoon
is transformed from a routine rehearsal to an opportunity to
work with Russian musicians on a complex original composition
written for the Emory choir.
Nelson puts the ensemble through its paces with a number of
more familiar songs, its not hard to guess why he was
chosen to receive a Crystal Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching
in 2004 (see box, below). He conducts the students with the
visible sensitivity, grace, and passion that have been remarked
upon by many in the Emory community and beyond, coaxing forth
their best voices. He also seeks to provide them with rich musical
experiences such as working with a foreign composer and conductor.
of all, though, Nelson insists that his singers develop a genuine
relationship with the music they are making, because that exchange
is what makes music meaningful to him.
the music itself, which not only is beautiful music, but also
has wonderful texts, he says. I get to deal every
day with matters of philosophy, theology, beauty. . . . I was
just talking with my seniors last night about the fact that
we explore matters of life and death, love and loss, on a daily
basis in a way that I dont think your average person gets
to. Day after day these texts draw you to places and make you
think about things really passionate and wonderful.
the abbreviated preparation time, the choir performed the Russian
piece beautifully, Nelson saysand he expected nothing
less. After seven years at Emory, Nelson is known to be both
a demanding and inspiring leader of the close-knit forty-member
Concert Choir and the two-hundred-plus member University Chorus,
as well as the various smaller ensembles he oversees.
Nelson is an incredibly unique man who has not only taught his
choir about music, but about ourselves and what is important
in the world, says senior Leah Stein, a three-year choir
member. It is no surprise that Dr. Nelson demands the
best from us. . . . Concert choir has meant something incredibly
special to meit has given me opportunities and experiences
in college that I would not otherwise have had.P.P.P.
Apple Recipients for 2004:
in Professional School Teaching: Richard Doernberg, School
in Undergraduate TeachingSeminar Class: Clifford
Carrubba, Department of Political Science
in Undergraduate TeachingLecture Class: Matthew
Weinschenk, Department of Chemistry
in Undergraduate TeachingPerforming Arts Class:
Eric Nelson, Department of Music
in Graduate Teaching: Jacqueline Jordan Irvine, Department
of Educational Studies
William H. Fox Award for Emerging Excellence in Teaching
and Service: Benjamin Z. Freed, Department of Anthropology
Laura Jones Hardman Award for Excellence in Service: Sheila
Teftt, Journalism Program