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Festival's 1,200 massed-voices fill Miller Auditorium

March 11, 2006

KALAMAZOO--The 68th annual Southwestern Michigan Vocal Festival will be held Thursday, March 16, on the campus of Western Michigan University and will culminate with a free 7 p.m. concert in Miller Auditorium featuring a 1,200-voice Festival Chorus.

The WMU-sponsored festival is one of the largest, oldest, and most successful high school choral festivals in the United States. This year's festival will draw participants from 35 Southwest Michigan high schools.

For the 7 p.m. concert, the 1,200-voice Festival Chorus will be seated in the first level of the Miller Auditorium, and the audience will be seated in the first balcony. Guest conductor Dr. Elizabeth Schauer from the University of Arizona will lead the evening performance, which includes the large Festival Chorus as well as the select 45-member Honors Choir. Also performing are the WMU Women's Chorus under the direction of Dee Gauthier and excerpts from a cabaret show by WMU music theatre performance students under the direction of Jay Berkow.

The large Festival Chorus will perform five works including Mozart's "Dixit Dominus," Randall Thompson's "Last Words of David," Alice Parker's arrangement of "Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal," Verdi's "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves," and the Finale from Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Gondoliers."

The high school Honors Choir will perform three selections: William Byrd's "Haec dies," John Clements' "Flower of Beauty" and the Alleluia from Paul Basler's "Songs of Faith."

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.; horn player Dr. Lin Foulk, assistant professor of music at WMU; and two university percussionists: Ryan Engleman, a senior from Muskegon, Mich., and David Malinowski, a junior from Farmington Hills, Mich.

Since its inception in 1935, the Southwestern Michigan Vocal Festival has been dedicated to one goal: To provide 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's guest conductor, Schauer, is associate director of choral activities and associate professor of music at the University of Arizona. Her doctorate in choral conducting is from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She earned a master's degree in choral conducting from Westminster Choir College and an undergraduate degree in music education is from the University of Michigan.

High schools qualified to participate in this year's festival and their directors are:

Allegan, Rebecca Balkon
Allendale, Connie Hyatt
Bangor, Andrea Gay
Brandywine, Denise Boger
Britton-Macon, William E. Smith
Buchanan, Sharon O'B. Bitterman
Caledonia, Carol Gess
Coloma, Steve Mitchell
Covert, Chris Fenner
Dowagiac Union, Jeff Robinson
East Kentwood, James Borst
Edwardsburg, Whitney Wade
Grand Rapids Union, Dan Rademacher
Gull Lake, David Woolf
Hartford, Steve Zebell
Hastings, Patti LaJoye
Kalamazoo Central, Fred Colgren
Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central, Jason Aiello
Kalamazoo Loy Norrix, Marie Kerstetter
Lawton, Gary Oegema
Marcellus, Malinda L. Eyster
Mattawan, David Hook
Niles, Matt Hunckler
Milford, Christy LaJoye
Portage Central, Cindy Hunter
South Haven, Cole Tyrrell
Stevensville Lakeshore, Kelly Ann Westgate
Sturgis, Marcia Pustelnik
Three Oaks River Valley, Robert Hay
Vandercook Lake, Jacob L. Oaster
Voices from Home (Battle Creek Home Schooled), Irene Pizzimenti
Watervliet, Tami Brush
West Ottawa, Pam Pierson
Wyoming Park, Peggy B. Patrick
Wyoming Rogers, Janet Nichols

For more information about the Southwestern Michigan Vocal Festival, visit www.wmich.edu/music/festivals/swmvf

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

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