The North Texan, Volume 39, Number 3, Summer 1989 Page: 5
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1964 A Cappella Choir
remembers European tour
TRAVEL BREAK-The A Cappella Choir from
North Texas pauses for a photograph on the
airport runway in Frankfurt, West Germany,
during its three-month tour of Europe in 1964.
The choir stopped in Frankfurt on its way to
Denmark from Spain.
Exactly 25 years before, they were in Iceland, young
and energetic, singing and poking fun at one another. In
March 1989 they were in Denton, older but still
energetic, still singing and poking fun at one another.
They were gathered for the 25-year reunion of the
1964 A Cappella Choir, directed by Frank McKinley,
that toured Europe for three months at the invitation of
the U.S. State Department.
"The A Cappella Choir was the best. We could match
up against anybody else in the country," said Elaine
Cormany, who graduated in 1967 and who went on to
spend most of the '70s and '80s singing major roles with
European opera companies. She recently returned to the
United States and now lives in Kansas City. She will
g at North Texas as part of the Fine Arts Series in
The choir indeed was matched up against other groups
during the auditions. Only 5 percent of the hundreds of
professional and student choir groups that applied for the
government-sponsored tour qualified as finalists. And of
those, only four were selected: two professional groups,
the Robert Shaw and Roger Wagner chorales, a madrigal
choir from the University of Southern California and the
The A Cappella Choir performed in 10 countries be-
tween February and April. Their tour began just a few
weeks after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the
president who initiated the cultural exchange program for
which they were selected.
Since their return, the choir members have gathered
for 10- and 20-year reunions. Twenty of the 40 original
members, plus their families, made it to the third re-
union. They viewed a film of the tour, heard a perfor-
mance by Ms. Cormany (that brought tears to several
eyes) and sang together.
"They still sound great," McKinley said of his
REUNION-Dr. Bill Harlan (left), Elaine
Cormany and Frank McKinley laugh as they
recall some of their experiences on the 1964 A
Cappella Choir tour of Europe. Harlan and Ms.
Cormany were members of .the choir directed by
McKinley. Twenty of the choir's original 40
members gathered in Denton during March for
the 25th anniversary of the trip.
charges. He's still proud of their accomplishments and'
considers the 1964 choir to be the best one he directed
during 33 years of full-time service at North Texas. In
semi-retirement, McKinley still teaches in the School of
His former students appear to be equally proud of him.
"He had an intimidating way about him, which was
good," Ms. Cormany said of McKinley's choir directing
style. "He kept us on our toes. But he also had a tender
side. He made us want to do well."
"He was like the Vince Lombardi of choral music,"
said Dr. Bill Harlan, who received his bachelor's and
master's degrees in 1966 and his doctorate in 1971. He is
now superintendent of schools in Eula.
Harlan said McKinley was disciplined and held the
highest expectations of their performances. "His ears
were so good that I think he could hear the grass grow."
Julia Smith, award-winning composer, passes away
Julia Smith Vielehr. the award-winning composer
who wrote "Glory to the Green and White," died from
apparent heart problems in her New York City apartment
in April, just days before she was to attend the premiere
of her latest opera in Fort Worth.
Best known by her professional name, Ms. Smith
was found dead in her apartment on April 27 by her
driver, who had arrived to take her to the airport for the
trip to Texas. Her opera, "The Cockcrow," was per-
formed in Fort Worth op April 30.
Born and raised in Denton, Ms. Smith attended North
Texas and wrote the alma mater when she was a sopho-
more in 1922.
She was named a Distinguished Alumna in 1970.
After graduating from North Texas, Ms. Smith at-
tended the Juilliard School of Music, where she studied
composition and piano. She earned her master's degree
and doctorate from New York University.
Her compositions have been performed by the New
York Philharmonic and symphony orchestras in Balti-
more, San Francisco, Oklahoma City, Toledo, Dallas,
Fort Worth, Houston, Cleveland and other U.S. cities.
Several European orchestras also have featured her
Ms. Smith's first opera, "Cynthia Parker," had its
world premiere at North Texas in 1939. The performance
was broadcast on the radio across Texas and was men-
tioned on the front page of The New York Times.
She wrote a total of five operas, including "Daisy,"
which was based on the life of the founder of the Girl
Scouts of the USA. In addition to her many other com-
positions, she wrote "Remember the Alamo" for Lyndon
B. Johnson's inauguration concert in 1965
She won many of the annual compositions awards
from the American Society of Composers, Authors and
Publishers and was honored this year by ASCAP for 50
years of service.
Ms. Smith also wrote two musical biographies:
"Aaron Copland" and "Carl Friedburg." A Christian Sci-
ence Monitor critic stated the book on Copland was
indispensable for those interested in contemporary
She also-published the first "Directory of American
Women Composers" for the National Federation of Mu-
She specified that after her death her music composi-
tions be left to the NT School of Music.
Ms. Smith was preceded in death by her husband, Os-
car A. Vielehr.
She is survived by two sisters, Mrs. John W. Howell
of Beaumont and Mrs. E. Don Weidman of Charlotte,
N.C., and four brothers, Willis of San Antonio, Emory
of Washington, D.C., R. Miller of Oklahoma City and
Ralph of Granbury.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Julia
Smith Scholarship Fund in the School of Music. Please
mark the scholarship name on the lower left of your
check and send it to: The Office of Advancement,
University of North Texas, P.O. Box 13557,. Denton,
University of North Texas The North Texan
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University of North Texas. The North Texan, Volume 39, Number 3, Summer 1989, periodical, Summer 1989; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc119053/m1/5/: accessed February 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting University Relations, Communications & Marketing department for UNT.