April 30, 2001
Marian Dolan: An Acquired Skill
By Eric Rangus firstname.lastname@example.org
Marian Dolan is a musician. Being a musician means lots of things. She plays an instrument (flute), but not professionally. She sings (as a back-row alto), but not as part of her chamber choir. She does not write music; her talent is in arranging. During concerts, in fact, Dolan spends most of the time with her back to the audience.
And she is a music teacher. When she reveals this to people, the inevitable
follow-up question is, What instrument do you play?
Despite her training as a flutist, Dolans response is pretty consistent.
I hesitate for a moment and then I usually say, people.
she said. Folks will either chuckle or get this puzzled look, but
its true. An ensemble conductors instrument is human beings.
An assistant professor of church music and choral conducting in the Candler
School of Theology since 1996, Dolan is conductor of Emorys two
chamber choirs, the Choraliers and the Candler Chapel Choir.
The choirs perform several concerts each year, and Dolan likes to stretch
the stylistic boundaries of her singers. One minute they may be singing
a black gospel tune, the next minute a selection of Christmas carols from
Scandinavia. In 1998, the Choraliers presented a program entitled Requiem
for a King, an interpretation of Mozarts Requiem K.626.
in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The show took place on April 4, the
30th anniversary of Kings assassination.
I try to teach larger concepts that will affect them not only in
their faith journey as pastors-to-be, but will help them have an understanding
of larger concepts like: How do you explore anothers tradition?
The Choraliers, Candlers auditioned chamber choir, have sung in
Finnish, Estonian, Korean, Russian, several African languages and even
a few that are only spoken by dead peopleLatin and Quechuan, the
indigenous language of Peru and Ecuador.
One of the greatest joys in teaching here is that the students
have been so willing to explore beyond their musical comfort zones and
wrestle with singing in other languages, Dolan said.
Earlier this month, the Choraliers added yet another language to its
repertoire. For its spring concert, Gloria Dios! Glory
To God! the choir performed choral music from the Caribbean
and Latin America in Creole, the native language of Haiti. They were accompanied
by Darryl Barrow, Oxfords chaplain, who played congas, and steel
pan player Dave Cooper. Jamaican composer Noel Dexterwho wrote several
pieces for the concertwas guest conductor.
Nowhere is Dolans international bent more apparent than on the
Multicultural and World Choral Music Home Page she helped create. Prior
to going online, Dolan would distribute reams of information on paper.
Photocopying was not only time consuming but expensive, so she created
a website. The site (www.emory.edu/CANDLER/arts/multi.htm)
includes listings for choral pieces from many different countries, as
well as entries for American Indian works.
I wanted to create a website where colleagues could go and find
two things: Where do I find it? and What do I look for?
Dolan said. If youre looking for music from Estonia, where
do you find it? Who publishes it? Is it all written in Estonian, or is
it in English?
A resource such as this is essential for choral directors because much
of their music is self-published, and a grass-roots distribution effort
is the best way to find new music. And the web has been an ideal tool
in strengthening communication among choral directors.
The Choraliers debut CD Endless Your Grace, for instance, is available
only through the theology school. Selections can be heard on the Candler
Baltic music holds a special place with Dolan, a New Jersey native. Her
maternal grandparents emigrated from Finland (her paternal grandparents
are from Ireland), and she has traveled, toured and spoken extensively
in both Finland and Estonia, the former Soviet republic just across the
In this country, April has been quite a busy month for Dolan. Not only
did she have the spring concert, but the choirs also performed a commissioned
piece at Candlers homecoming, April 1920, as well as another
commissioned work on April 24. Both were written specifically for the
choirs by Mark Gresham, an Atlanta-based composer.
To have a piece of music specifically written for us is really
exciting [for the choir], Dolan said. Its as exciting,
I think, as their exploring a piece of music that is outside their traditions
But perhaps the highlight of the month came on April 17. Thats
when Dolan received the Crystal Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching
for the Professional Schools.
The honor is one of the most prestigious awarded by students, who nominate
faculty and vote on the recipients.
Professor Dolan has achieved many accolades in her career,
presenter Josh Bornstein told a full house in Cox Hall the evening of
the ceremony. Bornstein is vice president of the Student Government Association,
which sponsors the awards. But her most valuable achievement is
her magnificent ability to relate to her students. Her classes are interesting,
engaging and enjoyable.
I was just completely surprised and humbled, Dolan said.
To be nominated by your students is really extraordinary. To have
students say they have learned about musicsomething that has sometimes
mystified them or scared them or intimidated themmeans that theyll
take that into everything they do in their life.
I dont think its necessarily because Im such
a great teacher, I think its because theyve helped me learn
in rehearsal and in the classroom how to present the stuff that I love
and to help them love it, too.
Yes, Marian Dolan is a musician, but she bristles a little at being called
Our responsibility as a musical ensembleboth the choir and
myselfis to reimage or re-present or reincarnate another persons
artwork, Dolan said. It follows along the same lines as a
dramatist who writes a play; unless he or she is a solo actor, you turn
it over to a theater company, and they re-present the play. Thats
really what we do.
Were not performing, she continued. We reincarnating someone elses artwork that they wrote when they had an encounter with God. They responded musically. Musicpitched sound and rhythmis a theological language. And if I have anything to say at Candler, thats it.