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Saint Xavier Founders' Day to Mark Debut Peformance of World-Renowned Composer's Work

Saint Xavier Chamber Singers to premiere Stephen Paulus' 'Above Me, Round Me Lie,' piece specially commissioned for SXU President Judith A. Dwyer

CHICAGO (Dec. 1, 2004) – To celebrate Saint Xavier University’s Founders’ Day, the University Choral Ensemble on Friday will be the first to perform renowned composer Stephen Paulus’ work, “Above Me, Round Me Lie.”

The performance is part of a formal dedication ceremony for Saint Xavier’s Academy Bell, a Chicago Fire survivor that recently took residence at Saint Xavier’s Chicago campus. 
In addition to Paulus’ piece, Professor Laurence Musgrove will read an original poem, “This Bell,” commissioned for the 2004 Founders’ Day events.

The performance is part of a formal dedication of Saint Xavier’s Academy Bell to be held at 3 p.m. Friday at the site of the bell, between the Mercy Ministry Center and the main entrance to the Warde Academic Center on Saint Xavier’s Chicago campus, 3700 W. 103rd St. The University Choral Ensemble performance will be held inside the Mercy Ministry Center.

"Saint Xavier has always given prominence to the liberal arts tradition. At our Founders’ Day ceremony, we are taking time not only to honor the heritage of the Sisters of Mercy who established our school, but also to celebrate our grounding in the liberal arts,” said Sister Sue Sanders, RSM, and Vice President for University Mission and Heritage. “We want each of our annual celebrations to highlight a dimension of the liberal arts, and this year we have the pleasure of premiering the original musical work of world renowned composer Stephen Paulus and the original poetry of our own professor Laurence Musgrove.”

Donors Jack and Linda Hoeschler, of St. Paul, Minn., commissioned Paulus to compose the piece in honor of Saint Xavier President Judith A. Dwyer, who became the first laywoman to lead Saint Xavier in October 2003.

Nationally, the Hoeschlers are among the most active commissioners of original music compositions. The couple has commissioned more than 65 works over the last 25 years and believed Saint Xavier needed an original song written in its honor. Linda Hoeschler said the couple commonly commissions pieces to mark special occasions and “Above Me, Round Me Lie” is no exception. 

Dwyer became friends with the Hoeschlers while serving as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

"Judith Dwyer is a long-time friend of mine since I served on the board at the University of St. Thomas,” said Linda Hoeschler, who was formerly executive director of the St. Paul-based American Composers Forum. “We came to Saint Xavier for Judith Dwyer’s inauguration and were so impressed with the school and the program that I asked Judith if the school had any kind of song. When she said it didn’t, I thought that the university needed an original piece that could be performed often, and especially to premiere on Founders’ Day and the dedication of the Academy Bell.”

Paulus’ piece is based on the poem, “The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe,” by Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Saint Xavier music professor Jan Bickel will lead the Saint Xavier Choral Ensemble in the first performance of Paulus’ a cappella composition.

“Jack and I worked closely with Stephen [Paulus] and the university to come up with a piece that was special for Judith [Dwyer] and Saint Xavier but also universal enough that others would want to perform it,” Linda Hoeschler said.

Sanders said she chose the Hopkins’ poem because its message addresses the Mercy heritage of Saint Xavier. “The Sisters of Mercy founded Saint Xavier in 1846.  The poem gives the sense of mercy enveloping a community in the same way as the air we breathe, in the same way as Mary, the Mother of God, also mothers and envelopes us,” she said.

The musical performance and the poetry reading are part of a larger celebration to occur at Saint Xavier’s 2004 Founders’ Day festivities: the formal dedication of the Academy Bell, which Saint Xavier recently installed near the front entrance of the Warde Academic Center. 

The bell was part of Saint Xavier Academy, which opened in the mid-1860s in downtown Chicago on Wabash and Madison. At this location, the bell survived the Chicago Fire in 1871, although the convent that housed it did not. The Sisters of Mercy – Saint Xavier’s founding order of Sisters – took the bell with them to a new location at 29th Street and Wabash Avenue. At this residence and school, the bell rang to wake the Sisters in the morning and summon them to prayer throughout the day. The bell was left behind after the Sisters sold the building, and two of the Sisters “recovered” the bell in the dark of night. Sister Andreana Conway– the bell’s “rescuer” – then carried the bell with her from mission to mission, vowing to not let the bell leave the home of the Sisters of Mercy. 

Since the early 1980s, the Sisters kept the bell safe at Fox Knoll, the former site of St. Joseph Hospital and Mercy Manor. In early June 2003, the bell made its way to Sisters of Mercy Regional Center on the campus of Saint Xavier University.
Celebrating the bell’s “full circle” journey, Saint Xavier will hold a dedication ceremony around the new site of the Academy Bell. Eileen Doherty, Director of Campus Ministry, will officiate in a ceremony that includes, administrators, donors, faculty, Sisters of Mercy, and alums.

To learn more about composer Stephen Paulus, please visit www.stephenpaulus.com. For more information on Saint Xavier University, please visit www.sxu.edu.

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