Gathering, an original choral symphony for wind ensemble, chorus, baritone, and soprano, weaves together texts from University of Illinois alumni Mark Van Doren, Rosalyn Yalow, and Fazlur Khan. Professor Emeritus Richard Powers, a MacArthur Fellow, selected the authors’ texts that comprise the libretto. Composed by Dominick DiOrio, Gathering not only celebrates the university’s 150th anniversary, but also the importance of public education in America. Established in 1867 as one of the country’s first public land grant institutions, the University of Illinois has a long been a leader in the innovative contributions which have enriched the lives of many. There is much to be celebrated within the pages of its history, and Gathering serves as a sonic jubilation of these achievements.
Through the works of Van Doren, Yalow, and Khan, Powers expresses the important impact these scholars and many others at our university have made on public education and society. Yalow’s text represents the university’s contributions to the sciences as well as her own work as a champion for women’s access to public education. Khan, one of the greatest structural engineers of the twentieth century, represents Illinois’ place as a leader among all engineering fields. Finally, Van Doren’s text, a hymn to wisdom, connects the arts, sciences, and humanities in a musical gathering of some of Illinois’ greatest visionaries.
Gathering presents composer Dominick DiOrio’s own celebration of a society where education is available to all who seek it, as well as the important contributions of the above-mentioned scholars. He draws upon his own experiences in a variety of schools, both as student and teacher, in contextualizing this piece as a celebration of public education. DiOrio observes that schools are the place where society’s values are expressed most clearly and fervently. A commitment to public education, civic engagement, shared responsibility, and governance are some of our greatest values and are manifested in music and musical gatherings such as this commission. DiOrio has chosen Johannes Brahms as a spiritual counterpart, quoting Ein Deutches Requiem (premiered 150 years ago) and the First Symphony in his own work. The German Requiem, often called a “human” requiem because of the universal nature of the text, invites all into a community of reconciliation—a gathering that leads to communal healing.
Gathering brings together many voices from the past and present in musical celebration of the community, tradition, innovation, excellence, and leadership throughout the University of Illinois’ 150-year history. It is about coming together and questioning why education and knowledge are important. Fittingly, this musical celebration will be brought to life by our students—the future generations of Illinois alumni leaders, pioneers, and innovators. In the composer’s own words, “music is a vast, complex, and precarious gathering, but it is the pinnacle and lifeblood of human experience. Its vitality is ours to nurture, and its future lies in the hands and minds of the students who grace our halls.”