Island Community Chorus grant will help set Nancy Luce’s words to music

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Peter Boak directs the Island Community Chorus in a rehearsal. — Nis Kildegaard

The Island Community Chorus was awarded a 2018 Alfred Nash Patterson Grant from Choral Arts New England last week at an awards ceremony at Mount Holyoke College. The grants are given annually for outstanding projects that further the choral arts.

This year, 13 grants for a total of $14,150 were awarded from the 51 grant proposals received. Island Community Chorus’s award, $1,500, will support an April 2019 performance of a composition by awardwinning contemporary composer Thomas LaVoy, setting the words of Martha’s Vineyard native Nancy Luce, known as the “Chicken Lady,” to music. The work will be a companion piece to Benjamin Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb.”

The grant will help the chorus participate in a consortium that will premiere the new work by LaVoy. The vision for the composition, according to chorus director Peter Boak, is that the composer’s “efforts will unite participating choirs around the world to bring light to the remarkable story” of the Island’s own Nancy Luce.

Boak accepted the grant, saying, “The work is about Nancy Luce, a 19th century single woman, who lived her 76 years basically alone in the same little house in West Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard with her chickens and a few other animals as her only companions.

“Along with being a lover of animals, she was also a folk artist, poet, businesswoman, and writer. Albeit some may consider her to be a bit eccentric, she was, perhaps, the first entrepreneur of the Island.”