On June 26, the monthly concert in the Music and the Arts series at Vineville United Methodist Church featured the Annie Moses Band performing selections from its album, “American Rhapsody,” in the main sanctuary, which was almost too small to contain the lavish, unrestrained arrangements.
The opening number, “Rhapsody in Blue,” written by George Gershwin as a piano and jazz composition, quickly segued to “Rhapsody in Bluegrass” in the hands of arranger Bill Wolaver, for a rousing start to the concert. In the audience, there were quite a few small children riveted by the music and held high by their parents to see the band.
Joshua Carswell, guest vocalist who knows well the Wolaver family reputation for composing and arranging, enlisted original band member Alex Wolaver to produce his debut self titled album, a compilation of jazz, pop, country and old standards, heard on the dance floors of early 20th century Europe. To be a guest on the program with the Annie Moses Band, Carswell must have earned his chops.
Included in the playlist were the melancholy “Shenandoah” and “Summertime,” both featuring strings and piano, accompanying Annie Wolaver Dupre on selections as wistful as the opening number was stimulating.
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From the cotton patch to Juilliard
Having grown up in a tar paper shack during the depression in Texas’ cotton bowl, Annie Moses knew this was not the life she envisioned for her children. As an adult, she married a missionary and moved to Oklahoma where she raised three daughters, all of whom she enrolled in voice classes even though it meant driving 20 miles every Saturday to their teacher in neighboring Arkansas.
Her daughter Robin Wolaver recalls the spinet piano her father bought, sitting in their living room, where she and her sisters practiced religiously until they mastered singing in three-part harmony. Imbued with a love of music, playing the piano or singing, Robin earned a bachelor’s degree in voice at Oklahoma City University where she met her future husband, Bill Wolaver, a fellow musician.
Bill has been successful as a composer, an arranger and as a pianist; Robin is well known as a lyricist and an author. They have won awards for their individual work and for their collaborations, among them ASCAP’s Inspirational Song of the Year and a nomination for the Dove award for Song of the Year, “Make His Praise Glorious,” recorded by Sandi Patty.
Robin’s story of her mother’s influence on her life, “The Song of Annie Moses,” hit the top of Amazon.com’s charts immediately upon release. With their lives revolving around music, Robin has been quoted as saying, “Music is not an option,” but a necessary component to the enrichment of children’s lives.
The four Rs
Another of Robin’s favorite quips is, “In school there should be four Rs, not three — readin’, ‘ritin’, ‘rithmetic and rhythm,” the last requirement a constant in the Wolaver household. In addition to writing books, magazine articles and song lyrics, Robin found the time to home-school all of her children, and musical performance was definitely a major part of the curriculum.
The hard work paid off when, one by one, each of the six Wolaver children was accepted at Juilliard to master their instruments and/or voices. Annie, the oldest and namesake of her grandmother, is the lead vocalist and has played the violin since she was 5.
The Annie Moses band was formed in 2001, with Annie, her brother Alex on viola and the third sibling, Ben, on cello, the trio backed up by their father’s rhythm section. Although Ben was accepted in Juilliard’s pre-college program, he graduated from the University of London with a bachelor’s degree in English literature in 2012 and prefers literary writing. Like her older brother, Camille Rose, harpist, pianist and organist, graduated from the University of London after attending Juilliard and after studying with the masters in piano and harp at Vanderbilt and at the Eastman School of Music. She too enjoys writing for magazines and composing novels.
Gretchen was only 9 when the band started playing and touring and thought her future would be in animal rescue work and in raising race horses. However, at 11, she joined the band and plays three instruments — mandolin, guitar and violin. The baby of the family, Jeremiah, who plays electric guitar, is credited with taking the band in a different direction at times, earning it the moniker, crossover band.
The Annie Moses Band tells American history through native songs and a story of the family, inspired by a grandmother to take that indigenous music all over the world.
The Sunday performance was a resounding warm-up to today’s free concert at the church, celebrating July 4 with “The Georgia Big Band Goes Patriotic.”