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South Jersey

Monday, May 7, 2001
Choir, composer collaborate on song for USS New Jersey

Courier-Post Staff

The sun is setting. A great ship sails the seas, metal hull reflecting the last rays before darkness descends.

This is the poetic picture that inspired a local composer to create a song about the USS New Jersey.

A harp, violin and horns will help provide the musical interpretation as a children's choir sings the new work, " Twilight at Sea," when it debuts June 9.

About 95 members of Children's Song of New Jersey, a 2- year-old community-based South Jersey nonprofit choir, will perform the song at Haddonfield United Methodist Church on Warwick Road.

Composer Dean Rishel of Eastampton wrote the music to a poem by choir member Emily Westfield, 10, of Haddon Heights.

The endeavor began last year with an idea by choir director Polly Murray: have choir students write poems as a way to start the process of creating a song for the battleship.

To spark thoughts from the young vocalists, Murray invited retired Navy Capt. David McGuigan to speak with the children.

He told them about the majesty and beauty of the largest of the battleships as it sails the he referring to ships in general or to the big j? At the time, McGuigan was president of the Home Port Alliance, the nonprofit South Jersey group that is restoring the ship to open it as a museum later this year.

The choir then commissioned Rishel, a former artistic director of the Greater South Jersey Chorus and a Florence Township music teacher for 32 years. He chose Emily's poem among dozens submitted by choir students who ranged in age from 7 to 14.

The enchanting, sophisticated melody with a slow tempo came fairly quickly to Rishel.

"Luckily I got to choose the poem," he said. "I felt this one would go to music nicely because it was picturesque. I saw a calm sea with a ship on it."

Rishel has attended the choir's rehearsals several times to convey dynamics of how to sing the words.

During a recent rehearsal at the First Baptist Church in Haddonfieldconcert is at the methodist church but the rehearsals are at the baptist church, he directed the children to let their syllables flow and "glue the words together" for a smooth effect while they sing.

"Harp strings will be plucked softly at the very beginning and the French horns will play sustained notes to create a timeless feeling," he said.

Emily said she tried to convey her feelings of seeing the ship on the sea in her poem after listening to McGuigan. In the chorus, she sings the high soprano notes of the song.

"I have never seen the battleship in person, but I am looking forward to going on it next year on a trip with my school class," Emily said.

Choir director Murray, music teacher at a Haddonfield elementary school, said she is pleased with Rishel's score. quote doesn't follow this well

"It was also well worth it just to have him work with the kids,'' she said, "so they can hear how he believes his music should be sung."

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