COLLABORATIVE CHORUS: Two UWEC Profs Create Song About Pandemic

B.J. Hollars and Dr. Chia-Yu collaborated to created ‘To A Lost Year,’ which will premiere in California

Sawyer Hoff |

WORLDS COLLIDING. Two UWEC professors came together to create a choral song about the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Photo courtey of UWEC)
WORLDS COLLIDING. Two UWEC professors – B.J. Hollars (left) and Dr. Chia-Yu Hsu came together to create a choral song about the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Photo courtesy of UWEC)

Dr. Chia-Yu Hsu is an associate professor of music-composition who was selected by the San Francisco Choral Society to create a piece of music related to the COVID-19 pandemic for their concert on April 29-30. To create lyrics for the song, Hsu recruited associate english professor and local author, B.J. Hollars.

Their song, “To A Lost Year,” focuses on the pandemic but also on social justice issues such as the immigrant experience. Though Hollars had little experience writing lyrics for something so formal, he knocked it out of the park.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Chiayu’s abilities, so I remained confident that she’d turn my straw into gold, whatever I gave her,” Hollars says. “But I admit, I was proud – and relieved – to learn that the lyrics were at least enough to allow the song to proceed.”

The song will be premiered in San Francisco, sung by a choir while Hsu and Hollars reap the benefits of their work. Hsu has already traveled to San Francisco earlier to help with rehearsals.

“It was a very emotional moment to hear it for the first time and musicians came to me to show their appreciation of the piece,” Hsu said. “To hear the piece live is always the ultimate moment for composers after spending months of writing the music.”

“To A Lost Year” has three movements: “To An Uncertain Battle,” “To Those From Other Lands,” and “To Hope,” which all have distinct sounds to prompt specific emotions from listeners. Hsu said that some of the choir singers even got tearful while practicing the song. 

Both Hsu and Hollars were ecstatic to work together to create this lovely piece of art.