HCC professor writes commissioned choral work

February 28, 2012

Professor Jay Ducharme in the Media Arts studio.

Professor Jay Ducharme may well have one of the most diverse resumes of any faculty member at HCC.

While he holds bachelors and masters degrees in theater, he teaches electronic media classes at HCC. He wrote a historical book about Mountain Park, the former amusement area on Mount Tom, where he once worked. He helped create the HCC disc golf course and advises the HCC disc club and chess club. He's a deacon and a member of the choir at the Second Congregational Church in Westfield.

His primary interest, however, has always been writing music, which he's done, he says, since he was six years old. He's written music and lyrics for an off-Broadway musical, he's a songwriter and performer who released six albums as a solo artist and with a band called The Dots, and he invented a musical instrument called the synthitar, a guitar embedded  with a synthesizer keyboard. When he was a student at HCC in the 1970s, he used to score the plays for the theater department.

"When I look back on my life, I was always doing theater, but my real love was music," says Ducharme.

More recently, Ducharme was commissioned to write a special piece for the Greater Westfield Choral Association's 35th annual concert. His original work, "Psalm," will be performed at the First Congregational Church in Westfield on Sunday, March 11. The concert starts at 4 p.m.

"Psalm," he said, is a one piece mashup of all the different psalms in the Bible, with each choral section singing a different version. The sopranos sing of the merciful God, the altos the fearsome God, the tenors the God of war. The basses represent Christ's view of the psalms.

"Each line is sung separately so listeners can hear each plea and then all the parts come together in a song of praise," says Ducharme.

He said he had been working on a collection of hymns for two years when he heard about the request for a commissioned piece. "I was originally thinking about doing this massive choral mass, but given that I had two months to do it, I said to myself, how am I going to write it?"

"Psalm," he said, is about five minutes long.

While Ducharme does teach a digital audio classes at HCC, it is geared for non-musical majors interested in production. He has never taught music classes because he has never had any formal musical training and admits he is not very good at reading music.

But he loves to write, which started when, as a kid, he used to score the TV show theme songs he liked.

"Robert Fenton had a wonderful view of life," says Ducharme. "He saw music as a reflection of the patterns we develop in our lives. I've always found that to be true in myself. I love finding patterns in music that can somehow move people."

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