St. Kate’s just can’t get enough of the poetry of Mary Virginia Micka, CSJ, ’43. For the third time since its 1993 premiere, the piece “To Come See” is featured at a St. Kate’s choir performance—fitting tribute to the remarkable alumna, CSJ, and professor emerita, whose poetry was put to music by celebrated composer Emma Lou Diemer.
On Sunday, May 1, at 3 p.m., the St. Catherine Choral Society will reinvoke Diemer’s “To Come See” once again, as well as Haydn’s Harmoniemesse and William Mathias’ “Let the People Praise Thee.” The Haydn work is one of several famous settings of the Mass by the great composer from the 18th century, while Mathias wrote his joyous choral anthem for the wedding of British royal couple Prince Charles and Lady Diana of more recent times.
Sister Mary Virginia, who still lives in Carondelet Village, graces the history of St. Kate’s with notable and sundry accomplishments. Graduating with a degree in English in 1943, she went on to teach in the same department from 1950–1992, and obtained her Master of the Arts in English from the University of Notre Dame in 1956. St. Kate’s has enjoyed her innumerous contributions over the years — in addition to her career as poet and artist, Sister Mary Virginia has been a dedicated member of the community, respected faculty member and generous donor to the university.
Diemer herself is an award-winning composer and music professor, based in California, whose art has been performed since the days when woman composers were few and far between.
“This wonderful composer is really important to the history of women composers in the United States, because she was one of the first to be recognized. Back in the '50s when she started composing, she was a real pioneer," says Patricia Connors, conductor and chair of the Department of Music and Theater.
“To Come So” proved to be only the first instance in which Diemer put Sister Mary Virginia’s poetry to music. In 2007, St. Kate’s music department commissioned her to compose a new piece for the annual concert WomanVoice, a collaborative event between St. Kate’s and women’s choirs from around the Twin Cities, and Diemer chose more of Sister Mary Virginia’s work.
“The poetry of Sister Mary Virginia is striking, gorgeous, evocative, imagist, original, inspiring,” Diemer says. “Even in her briefest poems there is color, movement, intense atmosphere. What more could a composer want?”
“It was just the right time to do that piece again,” explains Connors of “To Come So.” “This piece is living in harmony with nature and God, being at peace inside, living in harmony with one another, being in harmony in nature. It fits thematically."
The 75-voice choir, conducted by Patricia Connors, will be joined by an orchestra of professional musicians and soloists, including soprano Kristie Tigges, mezzo-soprano Sahar Hassan, tenor Benjamin Dutcher, and bass Jon Nordstrom. The concert will be held at Holy Spirit Church, 515 S. Albert Street, St. Paul, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 1, 2016. Admission is $10 for adults, and $5 for students and St. Kate’s alumnae. St. Kate’s students, faculty, and staff are admitted for free.