Children’s Choir to unveil new song about Sunken Gardens

Huntington composer and band teacher Diane Whitacre plays her song, “The Sunken Gardens,” at home on Wednesday, Nov. 23. The composition will be performed by the Children’s Choir of Huntington County on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Forks of the Wabash.
Huntington composer and band teacher Diane Whitacre plays her song, “The Sunken Gardens,” at home on Wednesday, Nov. 23. The composition will be performed by the Children’s Choir of Huntington County on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Forks of the Wabash. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published Nov. 28, 2016.

One of the highlights of the upcoming Children’s Choir of Huntington Christmas concert on Saturday, Dec. 3, will be an ode to Huntington’s famous former limestone quarry.

The piece, called “The Sunken Gardens,” begins with the words, “Come with me this winter night, let’s go look at all the Christmas lights. What a wonder – all aglow, Sunken Gardens in the snow.”

The new song, written by local composer Diane Whitacre, will be premiered during the Forks of the Wabash “Christmas at the Forks” weekend.

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, with a free will collection taken to help support the choir.

Whitacre, of rural Huntington, was commissioned to write the piece for the choir as part of a year-long theme, “Rooted in Place,” in which the choir’s concerts focused on a specific location, such as “Our State” or “Our World.” The Christmas concert will highlight “Our Town.”

Whitacre says the famous Sunken Gardens – at one time a national tourist attraction – was on the short list of ideas for a song about Huntington’s past.

“Sharon Lehman approached me and wanted something of historical nature,” she says. “If you live in Huntington, especially at Christmastime – I knew the concert was going to be in December – so I thought, that would be kind of neat to have a song about the Sunken Gardens, with the lights and all.”

Whitacre found two volumes full of information on the gardens in the Indiana Room at the Huntington City-Township Public Library. She learned the gardens, which were established in Memorial Park in 1923, once contained a water-filled gravel pit.

She wanted to help the members of the Children’s Choir understand that it was founded during the time of their great-grandparents, or even great-great-grandparents, many of whom drove Model-Ts or Model-As to come visit the spectacle below.

“The first verse goes into the history a little bit, because I wanted the children to learn about the history of the gardens. It starts out talking about the Christmas lights,” she explains. “It talks about how it used to be a gravel pit, and how there was a vision to construct a garden that folks would want to come see.”

She also found an article in a Better Homes & Gardens magazine from 1929, which contained some flowery descriptions of the gardens, including some she adopted for her composition.

“It talks about ‘radiant blossoms made out of a dream,’ because that article said the Sunken Gardens was made out of a dream. It was a dream – the dream of a town,” she says. “It was very poetic, the way they wrote back then.”

When she first presented the song to the young singers, Whitacre showed them pictures of the gardens, both before and after their transformation, to put the piece in perspective. The former Riverview Middle School band teacher, who has written around 100 compositions in various music genres – many of them specially-commissioned – says she loves being able to work with a local group such as the Children’s Choir of Huntington.

“You can have that personal contact with the kids, and I just like that interaction. I’m really excited that there is a concert that’s going to focus on the history of Huntington. I just think it’s neat … I think it is important that young people get a sense of the history of their community, and that we live our lives on the foundation that others have built.”

Other pieces that will be performed during the Dec. 3 concert include compositions by area composers such as former Huntington Community School Corporation choral teacher John Wenning and recent Huntington North High School graduate and Huntington University student Drew Evans.

More information about Diane Whitacre can be found on her website, www.dianewhitacremu sic.com. Additional information about the Children’s Choir of Huntington County can be found on the organization’s Facebook page.