Composition Dedicated to Late WBU Professor

August 2, 2011 

PLAINVIEW -- For its opening concert of the 2011-12 Season, the Plainview Symphony Orchestra will perform the world premiere of “Essay” for Orchestra by local composer Gary Belshaw. The work is dedicated in memory of Mrs. Donna Sarchet, late Associate Professor of Business Administration at Wayland Baptist University, who lost a lengthy battle with cancer in 2005.

The concert begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 1, in the Harral Memorial Auditorium on the Wayland Baptist University campus. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $10 for students with ID and $50 for a family (two adults and up to six children). Season Tickets are $50 each. Tickets are available online at or by calling 806-221-2884. Tickets purchased by Aug. 23 will be mailed; tickets purchased after this date will be held at the WILL CALL table outside the auditorium on the night of the concert. Tickets will also be available at Pak Mail, 2317 W. 5th St., and at the WBU Bookstore.

Belshaw said he did not only wish to honor Sarchet, but another music faculty member as well.

“The work is actually dedicated to two members of higher education faculties: Susan Schoenfeld and Donna Sarchet, both of whom lost lengthy battles to cancer,” Belshaw said. “Schoenfeld, who lost a two year battle with ovarian cancer in 1997, had been Associate Professor of Viola and Music Literature, a co-founder of the Pastorale Music Festival, and an active performer and recitalist. Sarchet was Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Wayland in Plainview, having served on the faculty for 22 years. She was active in local and state genealogical activities.

“I was a student of Susan Schoenfeld while at Texas Tech and had spent some time studying her performance of Dr. Mary Jeanne van Appledorn’s ‘Four Duos for Viola and Cello,’” Belshaw said. “I had wanted to both celebrate her life and make some sort of musical commentary on the effects of cancer on living organisms during the days of Susan’s remission. I had a germ of an idea that I nursed for several years without committing to the actual composing of the work. I had been on the faculty of Wayland Baptist University for just a couple of years when our community began praying for Mrs. Sarchet’s battle. I finished the composition during those days.”

Belshaw said the composition features different musical techniques based on a common theme.

”As the music starts, there will be several different music ideas played one after the other, and sometimes overlapping each other. Though different, each is based on the same set of four pitches. Don’t worry, all the pitches come from the major scale, so the music won’t seem very strange at all; in fact, some of it is really quite cheery,” he said. “The set of four pitches is a cell of music, and thus can be heard as representing the DNA of the human body. The several motives are meant to represent various cells in the human body.

“As the music develops, the musical ideas morph. The intervals between the pitches gets progressively smaller, much the same way cancer changes cells. The music gets more animated, and the sense of struggle becomes dominant. At the first of two climaxes, the main musical motive now has two of its four pitches played in quarter-tones, that is, sort of in between the keys in the cracks, as it were, between the keys on a piano. The music gets more intense until the highest point in the score, an extremely triumphant moment. But the moment passes quickly as the music immediately begins fading very, very gradually. At the last, the orchestra plays in what seems to be two different keys, the lowest instruments beating steadily the principal note of the scale of the original key, while the rest of the orchestra plays chords in a different key. The composition ends in silence.”

When asked why the premiere has been delayed so long, Belshaw could only chuckle.

“Just because one writes a piece of music doesn’t mean it gets performed, especially when you write for something as large as a full symphony orchestra. This is really the third time the Plainview Symphony has tried to put the work on a program.

“Thankfully,” he said, “the third time appears to be the charm.”