Alice Parker

Alice Parker (born December 16, 1925) is an American composer, arranger, conductor, and teacher. She has authored five operas, eleven song-cycles, thirty-three cantatas, eleven works for chorus and orchestra, forty-seven choral suites, and more than forty hymns, all original compositions. Also to be noted are wealth of arrangements based on pre-existing folk-songs and hymns, many of which were produced in collaboration with Robert Shaw. Parker is best known for these kinds of arrangements of spirituals, mountain hymns, and folk songs, early-American hymns, and international folk-songs, most notably in French, Spanish, Hebrew, and Ladino.

Alice Parker
Portrait of Alice Parker.jpg
Alice Parker by Eduardo Montes-Bradley
Alice Parker

(1925-12-16) December 16, 1925 (age 95)
Years active1947–2020
Thomas Pyle
(m. 1954; died 1976)

Early life

Parker was born in Boston to Mary Stuart and Gordon Parker. She studied music theory with Mary Mason at the New England Conservatory, composition and conducting at Smith College and the Juilliard School, where she began her long and prolific association with Robert Shaw. The many Parker-Shaw settings of American folk songs, hymns, and spirituals form an enduring repertoire for choruses in many countries around the world.[1][2]

Musical career

Parker attended Smith College, graduating in 1947 with a double major in organ and composition. She went on to study choral conducting at Juilliard, then became a teacher while also collaborating with Robert Shaw on arrangements of materials to be recorded by the Robert Shaw Chorale, formed in 1948.[1] Parker went on to become the primary arranger for the Robert Shaw Chorale for 20 years. On December 29, 1947, Alice was featured on the cover of Newsweek alongside other singers. The chorale disbanded in 1965.[3]

In 1954, Parker married Thomas Pyle, a member of the Robert Shaw Chorale. They had five children.[1] Pyle died unexpectedly in 1976, leaving her to care for their five children.[3] She moved to western Massachusetts, and, in 1985, she founded Melodious Accord. The Musicians of Melodious Accord is a professional chorus that has released fourteen albums. The Melodious Accord Fellowship Program brings young mid-career musicians from all over the world to study with Parker.[4]

She has composed over 500 pieces of music, including operas, song cycles, cantatas, choral suites, and anthems.[4]

Honors and awards

Alice Parker conducting in 2019.

Parker served on the Board of Directors of Chorus America. She was their first Director Laureate. Among her many awards, Parker has received the Distinguished Composer of the Year 2000 by the American Guild of Organists, the 2014 Brock Commission from the American Choral Directors Association, the Harvard Glee Club Foundation Medal in 2015, six honorary doctorates, and the Smith College Medal.[5] Parker is a Fellow of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada. She has been awarded grants from ASCAP, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and the American Music Center.[4] Most recently she was honored by the International Emily Dickinson Society for her choral suite Heavenly Hurt.

To celebrate Parker's 90th birthday in 2015, choral groups worldwide posted performances of her work on YouTube, as part of a project called Alice Is 90.[3]


The 2020 documentary Alice: At Home With Alice Parker explores the life and works of Parker. It was shot over the winter of 2020 at her residence in Hawley and in New York City. Produced by HFP in association with Melodious Accord, Inc., the film focuses particularly on the formative years and in the collaborations of Parker with the written works of Martin Luther King Jr., Archibald MacLeish, Eudora Welty and Emily Dickinson. Alice was introduced to the American audiences on October 8, 2020, by Chorus America,[6] it was selected to be in the Official Selection of the Virginia Film Festival, and is distributed by Kanopy.[7][8][9]

Arrangements and recordings

(1951–1962 in collaboration with Robert Shaw; Robert Shaw Chorale)

  • 1951 A Treasury of Easter Songs (13 arr.) RCA Victor
  • 1952 Christmas Hymns and Carols Vol. II(22 arr.) RCA Victor
  • 1954 With Love from a Chorus (9 arr.) RCA Victor
  • 1956 My True Love Sings(15 arr.)RCA Victor
  • 1957 Christmas Hymns and Carols Vol. I(17 arr.)RCA Victor
  • 1958 A Mighty Fortress (6 arr.) RCA Victor
  • 1959 Stephen Foster Song Book(16 arr.)RCA Victor
  • 1960 A Chorus of Love (15 arr.) RCA Victor
  • 1960 What Wondrous Love(18 arr.) RCA Victor
  • 1961 Deep River (2 arr.) RCA Victor
  • 1961 How Far Is It to Bethlehem (SATB – Four-part Chorus of Mixed Voices, a cappella). By Alice Parker and Robert Shaw and Words by Frances Chesterton.
  • 1961 Sea Shanties (16 arr.) RCA Victor
  • 1962 I'm Goin’ to Sing (16 arr.) RCA Victor
  • 1964 Music Reference Crammer
  • 1965 Hymns and Carols. By Robert Shaw and Alice Parker. Twenty-one sacred songs from traditional hymns and carols, and folk hymns and spirituals. Among the composers are Joseph Hayden, Louis Bourgeois, William Billings; among the poets are William Kethe, Isaac Watts, John Newton. Paperback. 105 pages. Publisher: Lawson-Gould Music Publishers, Inc. (Warner/Chappell); 1st Edition edition (1965), A Robert Shaw Collection.

(Alice Parker Arrangements for Robert Shaw Chorale)

  • 1965 Sing to the Lord (16 arr.) RCA Victor
  • 1967 Irish Folk Songs (16 arr.) RCA Victor

(Alice Parker Compositions with Lucy Shelton and Manhattan String Quartet – Musical Heritage)

(Other Works)

  • 1971 The Martyrs' Mirror. Opera. Composer: Alice Parker. Librettist-Literary Source: John L. Ruth[10]
  • 1975 Songs For Eve. Music by Alice Parker, literary source: a poem by Archibald MacLeish. Publisher: Ocean, New Jersey: Musical Heritage Society, 1985. 72 minutes.
  • 1976 The Family Reunion. A Back-Yard Opera in One Act. Libretto and Music by Alice Parker. Publisher: Melodious Accord.
  • 1976 Creative Hymn Singing
  • 1978 Singers Glen. (Opéra Bouffe). An opera in a Prologue and Two Acts. Composer: Alice Parker. Librettist-Literary Source: Alice Parker. Place: A Homestead in the Shenandoah Valley known as Singers Glen. Character: Joseph Funk, his children, The Bishop, Aunt Martha, Susan Ruebush, Jacob Baer, and other children. Premiered on April 1, 1978. Directed by Hiram Hershey.[11]
  • 1982 Listen, Lord. A Cantata, Two Suites, and Five Spirituals in choral settings by Alice Parker. Gothic Records. Cat. G 49219. Recorded with The Musicians of Melodic Accord. Alice Parker, conductor. Pamela-Warrick-Smith, contralto.
  • 1982 The Ponder Heart. Opera. Composer: Alice Parker. Librettist-Literary Source: Alice Parker and Eudora Welty. Premiered in Jackson, Mississippi.[12]
  • 1985 Folk Song Transformation
  • 1985–1988 Sacred Symphonies. The Musicians of Melodious Accord; Alice Parker, conductor. Recorded at the Church of the Holy Trinity, New York City, September 29 and 30, 1985. Engineering: David Hancock. Published CD, 1988 Amreco, Inc; Copyrighted by Musical Heritage Society.
  • 1989 Spiritual Songs – Musical Heritage – Recorded in the Church of the Holy Trinity, NYC, 1988
  • 1991 Transformations – Musical Heritage – Recorded in the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, NYC, 1990
  • 1991 Melodious Accord: Good Singing in Church
  • 1991 The Shaw-parker Book of Christmas Carols: Twenty-four Collected Carols for Unaccompanied Mixed Chorus. With Robert Shaw. Paperback.176 pages. Publisher: Hal Leonard. ISBN 978-0793510641.
  • 1994 Take Me to the Water. Thirteen New Spiritual Arrangements. Pamela Warrick-Smith, contralto; The Musicians of Melodic Accord; Alice Parker, conductor. GIA Publications, Inc. CD-329. Recorded in Chapel of Riverside Church, NYC, 1994
  • 1999 Sweet Manna – GIA – Recorded at the Church of the Resurrection, NYC, 1998
  • 2003 My Love and I. The Men of The Musicians of Melodious Accord Conducted by Alice Parker. Love songs arrange for a chorus of men including compositions from America, England, Scotland, France, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Ireland, and the United States. The recording was partially supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Music published by Lawson-Gould, Inc. Gothic Records. G 49213
  • 2004 Listen, Lord – Gothic Records – Recorded in Middle Collegiate Church, NYC, 2003
  • 2005 O Sing the Glories. Alice Parker and the Musicians of Melodious Accord. Seventeen Anthems Composed and Arranged by Alice Parker. GIA Publications, Inc. CD-633
  • 2007 Anatomy of Melody: Exploring the Single Line of Song. Hardcover. 216 pages. Publisher GIA Publications. ISBN 978-1579995607.Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • 2007 Family Reunion – Melodious Accord – Recorded in James Chapel, Union Theological Seminary, 2003
  • 2007 Hand-Me-Down Songs. Folksongs for children from the American tradition. Researched and arranged by Alice Parker. Produced by James Heiks. Gia Publications, Inc. Includes such tunes as Michael, Row The Boat Ashore, Old Dan Tucker, She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain, and others.
  • 2008 Angels and Challengers – Melodious Accord – Recorded at Union Theological Seminary, NYC, 2001
  • 2009 Singers Glen – Melodious Accord – Recorded at the Academy of Arts and Letters, NYC, 2007
  • 2010 Saints Bound for Heaven – Melodious Accord – Recorded in Park Avenue Christian Church,
  • 2009 Singers Glen – Melodious Accord – Recorded at the Academy of Arts and Letters, NYC, 2007
  • 2010 The Ponder Heart – Melodious Accord archival DVD – Recorded in the Federated Church Charlemont, MA, 2010
  • 2011 Transformations – re-released by Melodious Accord – Recorded in Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, NYC, 1990
  • 2012 And Glory Shone – Melodious Accord – Recorded in Park Avenue Christian Church, NYC, 2012
  • 2014 Where Heart and Heaven Meet – GIA – Hymns from Melodious Accord Hymnal – Recorded at Avatar Studios, NYC, 2014
  • 2010 The Melodious Accord Hymnal Paperback. 194 pages. Publisher: GIA Music.
  • 2013 Melodious Accord: Good Singing in Church Paperback. 114 pages. Publisher: Gia Publications, Inc. ISBN 978-1579999971.
  • 2014 The Answering Voice: The Beginning of Counterpoint. Hardcover. 128 pages. Publisher: Gia Publications, Inc. ISBN 978-1622770984.
  • 2016 Alice Parker's Hand-Me-Down Ballads. co-author James Heiks. 56 pages. Publisher: Gia Publications, Inc. ISBN 978-1622771981.
  • 2017 Heavenly Hurt: Songs of Love and Loss. Poems by Emily Dickinson. Seven songs for mixed chorus with cello and piano. Eugene Friesen, cello; Paul Vasile, piano. Commissioned by Da Camera Singers of Amherst, MA, Sheila L. Heffernon, conductor; first performance May 29, 2013, in Charlemont, Amherst, and Northhampton. The Gothic Catalog. Number: G-49310.
  • 2019 The Melodic Voice: Conversations with Alice Parker. By Cameron LaBarr and John Wykoff. Hardcover, 345 pages. GIA Publications. The book includes access to more than three hours of video interviews with Alice Parker.


  1. ^ a b c King, Jennifer Sue (2005). Three choral compositions by Alice Parker: a conductor's analysis of Songstream, Angels and Challengers, and Songs from "The Dragon Quilt".
  2. ^ LaBarr, Cameron. "About Alice Parker". Conversations with Alice Parker. p.241. GIA Publications, Inc. Chicago, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Scott, Charlene (December 17, 2015). "Choral Groups Honor Composer Alice Parker On 90th Birthday". Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Parker, Alice". Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  5. ^ Archived March 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved March 2016
  6. ^ Chorus America Presents New Documentary: "ALICE: At Home with Alice Parker"[1]
  7. ^ Melodious Accord Official Site [2]
  8. ^ International Movie Database [3]
  9. ^ Montes-Bradley, Eduardo. "Alice". Heritage Film Project. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
  10. ^ Stanford University Library. Online Resources: "Opening Night! Opera & Oratorio Premieres"
  11. ^ Singers Glen, Premiere Performance Program. Lancaster Mennonite High School, Lancaster.
  12. ^ Opera:'Ponder Heart' has World Premier".By Edward Rothstein The New York Times September 13, 1982

External links