WMU News

Festival concert features 1,200-voice chorus

March 10, 2005

KALAMAZOO--The 67th annual Southwestern Michigan Vocal Festival--one of the largest, oldest, and most successful high school choral festivals in the United States--is Thursday, March 17, at Western Michigan University.

This year's festival draws participants from 35 Southwest Michigan high schools and culminates in a free public concert at 7 p.m. March 17 in Miller Auditorium.

The 1,200-voice Festival Chorus will be seated in the first level of the auditorium; the audience will be seated in the first balcony. Guest conductor Andre J. Thomas from Florida State University will lead the evening performance, which includes the large chorus as well as the select 55-member Honors Choir. A guest performance will feature WMU's University Grand Chorus and Symphonic Band, under the direction of Dr. Joe Miller, director of choral studies at WMU.

The large Festival Chorus will perform five works including Handel's "How Excellent Thy Name," an "Ave Maria" by Javier Busto, the Gustav Holst "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," and two works by this year's guest conductor-composer-arranger Andre Thomas, "I Dream A World" and "I Hear America Singing."

The Honors Choir will perform three selections, an unaccompanied work by Ricardo Soto called "Cunti Simus," Stephen Chatman's "When Soft Voices Die" and another Andre Thomas work, "Walk the Streets of Gold."

One of the unique aspects of this giant festival is the variety of accompaniments made possible through the resources of WMU's School of Music. Providing enhanced accompaniments this year are pianist Brian Rose, a School of Music alumnus from Ann Arbor, Mich.; organist Joel VanderZee, a graduate student from Grand Rapids, Mich.; oboist Kristin Guy, a graduate student from Redmon, Ore.; double bassist Aaron Tully, an undergraduate from North Olmstead, Ohio; and drummer Jon Wert, an undergraduate from Comstock Park, Mich.

Since its inception in 1935, the Southwestern Michigan Vocal Festival has been dedicated to an experience in mass singing of good repertoire under the leadership of an inspiring conductor. Each year a noted guest conductor is invited to work with select students in a fall workshop and conduct the day-long festival in March. This year the guest conductor is Dr. Andre J. Thomas.

For more information, visit the festival on the Web at <www.wmich.edu/music/festivals/swmvf>.

Media contact: Kevin West, 269 387-4678, kevin.west@wmich.edu

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