San Francisco Choral Society set to perform UW-Eau Claire faculty produced song

Dr. Hsu and Dr. Hollars collaborate on composition commissioned by San Francisco Choral Society

Elliot Adams

More stories from Elliot Adams

The Tator
May 9, 2023

Dr. Chia-Yu Hsu pictured with members of San Francisco Choral Society from her March trip.

“To a Lost Year” is a composition that will be performed by the San Francisco Choral Society from April 29-30 in California. 

The piece was composed by Dr. Chia-Yu Hsu, an associate professor of composition, and written by Dr. B.J. Hollars, an associate professor of English, who are both UW-Eau Claire professors. 

According to the San Francisco Choral Society, a national call for submissions was put out and Hsu was selected among a pool of nearly a hundred artists to be the composer for a new piece of music in May of 2021. 

Hollars, who wrote the lyrics, was first approached by Hsu for suggestions before she eventually asked him to collaborate on the project. 

“I first asked Dr. Hollars for suggestions of possible texts,” Hsu said. “He suggested a couple of sites, but after reviewing them, I couldn’t find any that really fits the narrative I wanted, so I approached him again to write the texts knowing that he would do a fantastic job.” 

Hsu said that working with Hollars has been “a joy,” and that his “flexibility” has been an immense help in quickly revising portions of text. 

According to a UW-Eau Claire press release, Hollars said he was “relieved” that the lyrics he wrote were able to help Hsu proceed with the song. 

According to Hsu, the piece combines the subjects of COVID-19 and immigration which proved difficult at first but she was finally able to find a way to make it work. 

In the first movement, Hsu said that she used “dissonant sonorities” to create “unsettling emotions” before allowing for some hope through the piece.

“At the same time, there are passages that sound darker and sad, but there are also short moments of brighter sound to hint that there’s still hope.”

According to Hsu, the second movement of the piece featured more beautiful singing and softer chords as a “lullaby” for the victims.

Hsu said the third movement combines ideas from the first two movements of the piece while also showing hope in the second half of the movement. 

“In the second half of the movement, the tone shows more loving and brighter characters to represent that we always conquer the challenges, and a brighter future is waiting for us.” 

According to Hsu, she traveled to San Francisco in late March to workshop the piece with the choir and will be traveling back to San Francisco in two weeks to finalize the performance ahead of its April 29-30 performance. 

Hsu said that she feels “grateful and honored” to be working with such a talented group of singers. 

Her piece is dedicated to “the loving memory of Barrie Alix Kleinman Chi who taught English as a second language,” Hsu said. 

According to the San Francisco Choral Society, the performance will also be live streamed at 8:00 p.m. on April 30 at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco. Tickets for the livestream can be purchased on their website

Adams can be reached at [email protected]