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Student writes lyrics for award-winning New Zealand composer

Bri Neves’ poem “When the Cold Awakens” is the fifth movement and title of Hamilton’s new multi movement piece, which will have its world premiere at the Holiday Concert Dec. 5 in Russell Auditorium.

For some, writing is a therapeutic form of communication—a way to release feelings and explain ideas that may not fit into normal conversations.

Senior Bri Neves views writing as a way of life. Writing passionately since she was in fifth grade, Neves enjoys the art form and respects its power.

“I love writing anything, but poetry is my first love,” said the creative writing major, who is double minoring in creative music media and theatre. “The idea of others performing my writing also fascinates me, which is why I’m exploring the theatre and music side of writing. I love writing scripts and songs because interdisciplinary studies really interests me, which is part of the reason that I’m a double minor.”

A chance experience with a fellow student has allowed her writing to move from class assignment and personal project, to lyricist for an internationally-recognized composer.

“I was having trouble in one of my music theory classes, and music major Cannon McClain offered to help me. In working together, he mentioned he was looking for poets to help him write a musical piece he was working on for a class project,” said Neves. “Since I could write and he had helped me, I offered to write the poetry he needed.”

Little did she know that experience would change her life.

“After I wrote with Cannon, the piece was featured in a choral concert,” said Neves. “Then Dr. Jennifer Flory, director of choral activities, put me in touch with composer David Hamilton.”

“I have worked with David Hamilton on several occasions, which include the GC commissioned piece ‘Serenade’ and the outside of New Zealand premiere of his piece ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’," said Flory. “We also worked together again last school year on a concert finale called ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ featuring some of Bri’s poetry.”

David Hamilton is a composer, choral conductor and music educator from New Zealand, whose choral compositions number over 350 and range from a cappella 3-part pieces to large-scale compositions for three choirs and instrumental ensemble.

Neves’ poem “When the Cold Awakens” is the fifth movement and title of Hamilton’s new multi movement piece, which will have its world premiere at the Holiday Concert Dec. 5 in Russell Auditorium.

“When I was approached to write a Christmas song, I tried not to make it cliché,” said Neves. “Instead I thought about how grateful I was for the opportunities I have, and that inspired me to use gratitude as the theme. It ended up being more of a ‘winter’ song as David decided to go with the winter theme rather than the Christmas theme.”

“When the Cold Awakens” will be performed by the Max Noah Singers, Women’s Ensemble, University Chorus, an instrumental octet, Flory as mezzo-soprano soloist and Hamilton as conductor.

“I believe that for a creative writing major to have her poetry set to music is akin to having the poetry published,” said Flory. “A poem is read, either silently or aloud; music is performed, and poetry set to music is elevated to another level through a synergistic effect. For a poet, working with a composer to produce a new work is a creatively fulfilling experience. Collaborating with a composer of the renown and skill of David Hamilton could lead to future collaborations, both with him and with other composers.” 

Neves credits much of her success to the opportunities she’s had both inside and outside the classroom after transferring to Georgia College as a sophomore.

“This is a dream come true. Georgia College is definitely a place where faculty members go above and beyond to teach you more than just from a textbook. I also credit it to my family, friends, faculty, particularly in the English, music and theatre departments, my teachers growing up and other people who have always believed in and encouraged my writing,” said Neves. “I am very grateful to Dr. Flory for conducting previous pieces, singing the solo in this new piece and for getting and keeping me in touch with David in the first place. I’d like to also give a major thanks to David Hamilton for giving me incredible feedback and collaborating with me, and I could not have made it to this point without Cannon’s help in the first place.”

The Holiday Concert Extravaganza scholarship fundraiser will feature performances by Electronic Music, Jazz Band, Women’s Ensemble, The Cat’s Meow, String Orchestra, Max Noah Singers, Men’s Quartet, University Chorus and Wind Symphony The seventh annual music department holiday concert gives music scholarship recipients the opportunity to show their gratitude to the GC and Milledgeville communities by sharing their musical talents. Last year, this event raised the single largest portion of scholarship funding, and combined with endowed support, provided more $30,000 in student scholarships.

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More information on Neves and her projects can be found on her Twitter and Facebook accounts.


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