88 Keys and 88 Years – Marlys Swinger – Composer


The Bruderhof is one movement that is made up of
individuals each with unique gift and talents that make our community dynamic and
vibrant She’s a concert pianist and composer a graduate of Chicago’s American
Conservatory of Music she’s also 88 years old and a great
grandmother Marlys Swinger has lived on the Bruderhof since 1959 All her life she’s been composing music
for choirs of all ages but she’s not ready to retire yet. This
year she was commissioned to create a special piece of music for Christmas I’m Laura Maendel and when my choir started practicing The Birth of our Lord by Marlys Swinger I
wanted to find out all about how she wrote it. So in the middle of the night I suddenly thought about Baruch he has something in it about the stars fortelling Here oh Israel is the dwelling place of our God How vast is his domain. It’s great it’s boundless omnipotent and lofty He sends out his light. He called and it obeyed The stars heard his call and they answered We are here, we rejoice And they shown out with rejoicing for their maker.” And I thought, that’s how I’m going to start it. With a libretto in hand Marlys began
writing music to fit the words I got up every morning at 5 to get to work at my table on the composing I would sit at my table with my empty pages of lines in front of me with an eraser and pencil and I just sketched out the main themes erased, sketched out and erased. I wore out about 12 of these pencil erasers I did all of it that way. Marlys worked closely with her daughters
Janie and Deb and with Dan who helped entering the
composition into the computer Deborah was here full-time and Dan was here full-time I was scribbling away. I’d sit in the table in the middle of the room There were on each side each with a computer
with a Finale program on it The working together was fantastic and we just loved it. I got myself a little system of using colored pens. The black and
white was the strings I used green when I wanted brass And I used purple when I wanted the French horn Marlys finished the piece after two months of concentrated work and then she agreed to direct the first
performance I think anyone that learns anything for instance people that are going to
sing this new work they’re going to have all those words with them all their lives and some these tunes will just stay
with them because they’re very singable. I don’t feel like it’s anything
I’ve done It’s just somehow a gift that I’ve been
able to use