HESSTON, KAN. –The Sunflower Trio’s upcoming concert celebrates the life and work of J. Harold Moyer, a composer, arranger, teacher and musician who died in 2012.
The trio consists of Hesston College music faculty Matthew Schloneger, voice, Rebecca Schloneger, violin, and Ken Rodgers, piano and organ.
They will perform Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. at Bethel College Mennonite Church. The concert will also feature special guests Rosewood Winds, and congregational singing of some of Moyer’s many hymn arrangements.
The Sunflower Trio recently released a CD called Reflections: The Music of J. Harold Moyer to commemorate the life of Moyer, a long-time music faculty member at Bethel College. The CD is available on the Sunflower Trio’s website and will also be available for purchase at the concert.
“There was not a great deal of music composed for a group consisting of tenor, violin and voice, so Dr. Moyer was kind enough to write three sets of songs for us,” said Matthew Schloneger. “He composed enough material for, or that fit, our group that we were able to produce an entire CD of his work.”
The Sunflower Trio was founded in 2002 and is dedicated to performing music featuring voice, violin and piano/organ. The trio excels in a variety of styles from Baroque to contemporary, folk and Broadway.
Sunflower is also a family affair: Matthew and Rebecca are husband and wife and Ken is Matthew’s uncle.
They have performed extensively throughout the United States as a part of the Kansas Arts Commission and Mid-America Arts Alliance touring rosters. They released their first CD, All Good Gifts, in 2005, featuring arrangements of familiar classical and popular songs.
Rosewood Winds is a woodwind trio based in Newton that has performed in a wide variety of venues with a large, varied repertoire. Members are Amanda Friesen, flute, Kristin Kliewer, oboe, and Valerie Klaassen, clarinet.
J. Harold Moyer was born in 1927 in Newton. His life reflected devotion to the work of the church and passion for music.
The youngest of three brothers, he grew up as a Bethel College “campus kid” – his father worked in the business office. After graduating from Newton High School, Harold Moyer attended Bethel, graduating in 1949.
During World War II, he served in Civilian Public Service during World War II at Camp Camino in California, and at Mennonite Central Committee headquarters in Akron, Pennsylvania.
After graduation from Bethel, Moyer pursued graduate studies in music composition. He earned a master’s degree from George Peabody College, Nashville, Tennessee, and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.
After completing his graduate studies, Moyer taught at Freeman (South Dakota) Junior College. During that time, he was drafted for the Korean War and served in 1-W by teaching music at Boys’ Industrial School in Topeka.
While working on his doctorate, Moyer taught at Goshen (Indiana) College. He taught at Bethel from 1959-92. He also taught one year at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ontario. He received professor emeritus status from Bethel and continued teaching until 2011.
During his years at Bethel, Moyer wrote numerous choral and instrumental compositions and arrangements, three operas and two musical dramas. In 2009, Moyer received the Bethel College Alumni Association’s Outstanding Alumnus Award.
From 1960-67, Moyer was involved in developing The Mennonite Hymnal, the first joint hymnal venture between the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church. Moyer served as vice chair of the Joint Hymnal Committee, and the hymnal contains 13 hymns with an original Moyer tune or harmonization.
He later contributed to the second joint hymnal, Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992), currently used in many Anabaptist congregations in North America, as composer, arranger or tune harmonizer of 10 hymns found there.
Moyer wrote a number of anthems for the Kansas Mennonite Men’s Chorus, which led to his relationship with the Mark Foster Music Co. of Champaign, Illinois, and publication of 14 of those anthems.
During the last decade of his life, Moyer composed a significant amount of chamber music, including the three sets of songs written for the Sunflower Trio. His late songs featured texts by some of his favorite poets, including Carl Sandburg, Lew Sarrett and Jean Janzen.