Senior Ed Davis finds joy, healing through music

Senior Ed Davis, a composer and member of the Knox College Choir (KCC) and Nova Singers, is, in his own words, “a pretty big choral nerd.”

Davis has sung and served as bass section reader with the KCC for five years, sung with the Nova Singers for two years, composed two pieces that were preformed by the KCC and composed another choral piece as an Honors project.

Davis’ motivation behind each piece he has written has been different than the one that came before.

“The first [piece for the KCC] was a cathartic exercise after my grandpa passed away … [that] helped me get over this dark event in my life,” Davis said.

The second piece, titled “Wild Nights,” was written during KCC’s tour to Colorado last year. It used the text of Emily Dickinson’s poem of the same name, which he read for an American literature class at Knox. Writing the piece while on tour with the choir that would eventually perform it helped Davis imagine the music.

“I had these ideas for how it might sound, and a lot of them were better realized because I was surrounded by [the choir],” Davis said.

Tours are by far Davis’ favorite part of his choir experience at Knox. He said tours are always highly anticipated and “hyped up,” and they never fail to meet his expectations.

He is always impressed by “the level of musicianship we achieve and how close we get — that camaraderie and heightened togetherness.”

In addition to writing the piece while on tour, Davis’ connection with Dickinson’s poem helped him to write the music.

“Getting the right text is the most important part, to understand what you’re singing about,” Davis said. He considers “Wild Nights” his most successful piece “because [he] really connected to the poetry a lot.”

For his Honors project, Davis chose to set a Catholic mass to music because he wanted to “pay homage to great masterpieces throughout history.” As someone who is not religious, however, he found himself less connecting to the mass than the Dickinson poem.

“The challenge was approaching the sacred text from the secular perspective — trying to find inspiration from the text that I was setting despite not being religious,” he said.

This Honors project was not only a culmination of Davis’ academic work but his work with the KCC as well.

“Everything I’ve learned from being a choir member I’ve put into this,” he said.

Davis wrote the piece with the KCC in mind and hopes that they will perform it in the next few years.

Next year, Davis will be taking a year off to sing in one or two choirs and build his portfolio. He plans to apply to graduate school for the following year, eventually conduct a choir and someday teach music composition at the college level.

“I also wouldn’t mind being a famous composer. That’s a pretty far fetched dream, but I’ll shoot for it,” he said.

Gretchen Walljasper

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