Arts & Culture

UWF Dr. Grier Williams School of Music Concert Choir featured in International Exhibition

A performance by the University of West Florida Concert Choir from the Dr. Grier Williams School of Music is featured in the National Archives of the United Kingdom’s newest exhibition “Great Escapes: Remarkable Second World War Captives.” The major exhibition opened on Feb. 2, 2024 and will run through July 21, 2024.

Video and audio recordings from the “Song of Survival” concert hosted in the Rolfs Music Hall on April 21, 2022 are used in the exhibition to help shed light on the untold stories of hope, resilience and ingenuity exhibited by prisoners of war and internees during World War II. Dr. Peter Steenblik, associate professor and director of choral activities for the UWF Dr. Grier Williams School of Music, conducted the performance which included a replication of a 1943 concert originally given by Margaret Dryburgh and fellow missionaries while interned in Indonesia. Held on the 77th anniversary of Dryburgh’s death from dysentery in 1945, the performance has been praised by the UK National Archives as a “quality representation of Dryburgh’s work.”

“It’s a high honor that our work at UWF is being recognized abroad in such a meaningful way,” Steenblik said. “The UWF Concert Choir, a soprano/alto chorus, is committed to creating quality music, with particular attention being paid to compositions designed specifically for women’s voices. The collection of some 30+ pieces by Margaret Dryburgh and her colleague Norah Chambers is among the most difficult music we’ve ever prepared. Not only is it exceptional part-writing with great detail, it also engages the brain in ways none of us had ever experienced before.”

Steenblik and his students rose to the challenge, engaging with the music in a way that honored the various forms of ‘escape’ Dryburgh and other interned individuals sought during the war such as setting up theater performances, writing to loved ones, producing artworks or falling in love. 

“Each singer was required to be mentally and emotionally engaged for the duration of rehearsal,” Steenblik reflected. “Our performance on that April evening was particularly memorable, and we are overjoyed that the recording of that experience is continuing to contribute to the telling of these powerful stories.”

View the “Great Escapes: Remarkable Second World War Captives” virtual exhibition tour featuring the UWF Concert Choir’s performance of “The Captives’ Hymn” by Margaret Dryburgh and “Symphony No. 9 (Largo)” by Antonín Dvorák, arr. Margaret Dryburgh. The UWF Concert Choir can be heard around the 12:47 mark in the video.

For more information on the Dr. Grier Williams School of Music, visit