Composer David Ashley White’s secular and sacred works are performed around the world. Recently, the veteran University of Houston Moores School of Music professor was honored with the 2015 Raabe Prize in Sacred Composition for his piece “Spirit Moving Over Chaos.”
The board of directors of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (ALCM) selected the composition for this prestigious award.
“It's always gratifying to be recognized for one's work, and this particular award, coming from one of the most respected national church music organizations, is especially meaningful,” White said.
“Spirit Moving Over Chaos” is written for chorus, oboe or other C-instrument, percussion, optional handbells and keyboard. The composition was recorded by Houston’s Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church Choir (directed by Brady Knapp) on the Gothic label release “Praise the Spirit.” UH’s award-winning Moores Concert Chorale (directed by Betsy Cook Weber) also performed the piece at Houston’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Weber also directed it as guest conductor with the Alaska All-State Treble Choir in 2012.
“One wonderful part of the prize is that it is shared between the composer and a musical organization that is somehow connected with the composer and perhaps with the piece itself,” White said. “In my case, the Palmer Choir and Moores Concert Chorale were very much involved. This all speaks to the point that a composer like me does not work in isolation, but must regularly be part of a network of musicians. I'm fortunate to be around such great people.”
The recent Raabe announcement took the noted composer and educator completely off guard. David Schapp, president of Selah Publishing Co. (the composition’s publisher), submitted “Spirit Moving Over Chaos” to ALCM for Raabe consideration without telling White. Needless to say, the news was a welcome surprise for White.
White’s talents as a composer and musician were honed at UH. The native Texan earned a bachelor’s degree in oboe performance and master’s in composition at UH before heading to The University of Texas at Austin for his doctorate. He joined the UH faculty in 1977 and served as the director for the Moores School of Music from 1999 to 2014. During that time, he was the first recipient of the Margaret M. Alkek and Margaret Alkek Williams Endowed Chair, which is held by the director of the school.
He is internationally renowned as a composer, and his works have been performed in concert halls and churches around the globe. Among those international performances were award-winning concerts by the Moores Concert Chorale at choral competitions in Wales, France and Germany.
The Moores School of Music is one of the premier music schools in America. Offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, it serves approximately 600 students annually. Areas of study include composition, conducting, performance, theory and musicology. Its faculty consists of internationally recognized performers, composers and scholars. Among its ensembles are the Moores School Symphony Orchestra, Moores Jazz Ensemble, Moores Opera Center, Concert Chorale, Concert Women’s and Men’s Choruses, the Spirit of Houston Cougar Marching Band, Wind Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble. A majority of the school’s concerts are performed in the internationally recognized 800-seat Moores Opera House. For more details on the Moores School of Music, visit http://www.music.uh.edu/.