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Wicker Park Choral Singers

Building community through choral music

Wicker Park Choral Singers is a Chicago-based all-volunteer choir dedicated to building community through choral music. 

Meet composer Elizabeth Lim

lizlimElizabeth is one of our Call for Scores contest winner. Her piece "Clark Street Bridge" was composed for the contest and we are proud to give its world premiere at our June 22nd concert. We caught up with Elizabeth and got to know a little bit more about her background and her inspiration for "Clark Street Bridge." WPCS: What sparked your interest in composition? How did you develop your skill as a composer? How did your time at Julliard shape you or direct your goals/aspirations as a musician?

Liz: I started playing piano at a pretty young age, and like most children, I absolutely hated practicing. My parents told me I had to practice at least an hour everyday, but they didn't tell me what I had to practice. So instead of working on the pieces my teacher had assigned, I usually spent the hour improvising at the piano or dissecting the music from my favorite cartoons so I could play and sing them myself.

I would say I didn't take composing seriously until my later high school years. I grew up primarily as a pianist, so all my early works were for solo piano. In high school I started seriously exploring writing for other instruments as well as writing for voice. I'd say I grew the most as a composer during college, but I tried to polish that growth at Juilliard, where my teachers fine-tuned my rough edges. Juilliard's an incredible place for a composer, mostly because the players are so dedicated, inspiring, and amazing at what they do. They make anything I write sound great!

WPCS: What aspect of choral music inspires you the most?

Liz: As a pianist, I didn't have many options to perform with large ensembles, so in high school I joined the choir. I've always loved writing prose as well as music, and choral music to me is the marriage of music and words. That's already enough inspiration for me; I absolutely love finding poems that are rich in imagery and imagination and that tell a story. To me, those are the most satisfying texts to set.

WPCS: Do you compose music other than choral music?

Liz: It's funny, although I sang in choirs for almost a decade, I used to compose very little choral music. After participating in the VocalEssence workshop in 2012, however, I've almost exclusively been writing choral music.

WPCS: Do you have a personal connection to Chicago?

Liz: I haven't lived in Chicago, but I've visited a few times and love the architecture and food. Especially the food. The last time I was in Chicago, a friend of mine highly recommended I eat at the Girl and the Goat, which at the time (and I believe still is) one of the most popular restaurants in the city and is impossible to eat at without a reservation. That day I 'd had lunch around 2PM, but after her suggestion, I rushed over to Girl and the Goat at 4:15 on a full stomach, got a table at 4:30 (though I was told I had to finish my "dinner" within the hour), and I had one of the best meals of my life. I don't know if that's a connection to Chicago, but it's certainly a fond memory.

WPCS: Tell us about the inspiration for your piece.  Why “The Clark Street Bridge”?  What do you intend for the piece to capture or convey emotionally or musically?

Liz: I'd just set another poem by Carl Sandburg called Broadway; it was a tribute to New York City. After finishing that piece, I noticed that Carl Sandburg had a collection of poems that he wrote while living in Chicago, and Clark Street Bridge called out to me because of the drama in the poem. It's a very active, powerful, and industrial text, and one that captures the spirit of an earlier era. I thought it would go along wonderfully to music.

WPCS: When you are not composing music, how do you spend your time?  What are your other passions and interests?

Liz: When I'm not composing, I'm either writing fiction, reading, eating, or spending time with my fiancé. He's taking up cycling recently, so my newest hobby has been relearning how to bike and trying to keep up with him.

You can learn more about Elizabeth and her music at www.lizlim.com.