PITTSBURG — A special section of this year’s Vesper Concert will send a message to those dealing with a loss of a loved one or any other loss, as some Christmases are not joyful.

The concert will be part of a larger commissioned work, which will have traditional Christmas music and a section created by local lyricist and composer.

The commission was made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas, to give a voice to those who may not find the Christmas season so jolly.

Vocal Director Susan Laushman and Pittsburg High School band Director Cooper Neil searched locally to help make a special score for this winter’s Vespers Concert.

They called upon Pittsburg State University Student and PHS English Teacher Melissa Fite-Johnson to write the lyrics and PSU Music Professor John Ross to compose the score.

Laushman said Fite-Johnson sent out a survey to collect what Christmas means for people, and many came back sad, she said.

“Many talked about loss,” Laushman said.

Fite-Johnson created the lyrics which expressed those feelings and Ross then composed the score.

Since the first time he heard the men’s choir Laushman was directing, Ross said he wanted to partner with with one of the choirs Laushman directs.

“I was thrilled when she asked,” Ross said.

Ross said Fite-Johnson was a good partner.
“Melissa did a fantastic job,” he said.

He said they worked well together, and made a score which shared her message in the poems while entwining music composition.

“What a great fun it has been for both of us,” he said.

Ross said they wanted to give the notice of the season and they kept in mind many holiday songs have been produced. They wanted something which could give the sense of cutting new ground.

“We decided, let’s talk about the solstice, experience the foundation of all of the Christmas stories,” he said.

The commissioned piece will be a preview of next year’s full selection, which will be recorded professionally next year.

The concert is comprised of the PHS choir and band, orchestra and Multi-Generational Chorus members. Vespers will feature traditional holiday music including contemporary, religious, and secular pieces at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Memorial Auditorium. There will be a pre-concert at 6:30 p.m. at the auditorium.
Tickets to the concert will be required for main floor seating, but they are free and must be picked up in advance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at Memorial Auditorium. Balcony seating is open and doesn't require a ticket.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.