Southeastern Illinois College has a new Alma Mater song thanks to local businessman and song writing hobbyist, William Fletcher Johnson of Eldorado.
Johnson entered a contest more than a year ago when SIC called for submissions to come up with lyrics to the first-ever school song. When asked about his interest, Johnson expressed his recently discovered enjoyment of writing songs.
“I’ve been writing poetry since childhood,” he explained. “I played the French horn in my high school band and have participated in church choir. Then a couple of years ago, I attended a recording at Three Angels Broadcasting in Thompsonville where former US Attorney General John Ashcroft performed a hymn he had written himself. The fact that he was not just a politician, but also a song writer and a performer as well inspired me.”
That inspiration led Johnson to start writing hymns for his own church, Union Grove General Baptist Church in Eldorado. Not long after, he said he heard about the song contest at SIC and thought he’d give it a try just for fun, not thinking that he might actually win.
Cory Garmane, SIC’s music director, said, “Though there were a number of submissions, I believe the school song committee found that Johnson’s lyrics for ‘Our Southeastern’ spoke to the heart of SIC’s mission and campus.”
Then came the task of setting the lyrics to sheet music with parts for choir performance.
“After reading Mr. Johnson’s poem, I knew I had to write something as broad and sweeping as the text he composed describes,” said Garmane. “Approaching this composition was a labor of love for me; an Alma Matter song is a serious song, and one that has to stand the test of time.”
Garmane said he chose to adhere to time-tested methods of composition, but added in updated and personal elements to make the song unique.
“If you listen closely, you will hear that there are two separate but complimentary melodies happening at the same time in the soprano and bass voices, said Garmane. The inner voices provide the interest with their moving lines and ornaments. This piece was a joy to compose, and I hope that it is well received.”
Johnson was surprised by the announcement of his triumph during a recent weekly meeting of the Eldorado Rotary Club at Dad’s Bar-B-Q in Eldorado, of which he holds the office of president. The SIC Concert Choir, directed by Garmane, was scheduled to perform a few selections for the group and took that opportunity to name Johnson the winner and award him with a certificate, Kindle Fire and SIC spirit gear.
Johnson is a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington, with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history. His daughter, Katherine, graduated from SIC and his son, William, is currently attending SIC.
Garmane says the new song will make its debut at this year’s graduation ceremony at SIC on May 13 at 7 p.m. The SIC Concert Choir and SIC Community Chorus are already rehearsing for the musical unveiling.
For more information about the SIC music program or to join the Community Chorus, contact Garmane at 252-5400 ext. 2235 or [email protected].