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The Daily Tar Heel

Senior Puts N.C. to Music for Thesis

The "Carolina Cantata" will premiere at 7 p.m. Saturday and feature an orchestra, a choir and photographs.

The Greenville native took trips to rural and eastern North Carolina with her family throughout her childhood. So when Burke, a double major in music composition and communications studies, was assigned to write a musical composition for her senior honors thesis, she drew upon those experiences to do it.

The result of Burke's homegrown inspiration is "Carolina Cantata," a six-movement musical composition premiering Saturday in Person Recital Hall.

The composition combines Burke's interests in music and communications media.

"It is a multimedia performance, but music is the central aspect," Burke said.

The 45-minute piece, which includes a small chamber orchestra and eight-member chorus, also features photographic slides and excerpts of stories from the oral record of the region.

"(The piece) definitely tries to tap into the traditions of various parts of North Carolina," said Nathan Hetherington, the performance's conductor and assistant conductor of the UNC orchestra.

"The poetry (Burke) chooses to set the music to has a very folk feeling," he said.

That feeling is captured in the piece through tales from eastern North Carolina's rich oral tradition, including excerpts from UNC English Professor Bland Simpson's "Into the Sound Country: A Carolinian's Coastal Plain."

Adding to the composition's resonance are photographs taken from the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives and Burke's own private collection.

"My dad took a lot of the pictures," Burke said. "He's going to be at the performance, which is really exciting." Joining in on the family act are Burke's sisters, Katie and Lauren, who will be performing in the piece's choir.

But the appeal of "Carolina Cantata" does not only apply to its composer and fellow Carolinians.

"There is a North Carolina flavor (to the piece), but it is still universal, particularly in the ideas of families and the hardships families go through," Hetherington said.

"Carolina Cantata" will premiere at 7 p.m. Saturday in Person Recital Hall. Admission is free, but seating is limited.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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