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Ringing (and singing) in autumn: BloomU choral ensembles tune up for the fall season

Three vocal music ensembles participated in the Fall Choral Festival recently on Sunday, Oct. 14.  Those who took part were the Women’s Choral Ensemble, The Bloomsburg University Husky Singers and The Bloomsburg University Concert Choir.

The concert was held at 2:30 p.m. in the Gross Auditorium of Carver Hall. Split into three segments, one for each ensemble, the songs ranged from traditional spirituals to musical showtunes to American folksongs—there was something for everyone to enjoy.

Under the direction of Dr. Amelia Garbisch, the Women’s Choral Ensemble opened the festival with a masterful work of text and musical expression, “For the Beauty of the Earth” by John Ritter.  Wanting to showcase a “lighter program,” they also performed popular songs, such as a tune from “Jekyll and Hyde,” “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” and a modern jazz version of “What a Wonderful World,” made popular by Louis Armstrong.

The women’s portion of the concert concluded with a cute rendition of “I Enjoy Being A Girl” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song,” featuring Katie Augustitus, Beth-Ann Fegley and Sarah Stettler as soloists.  

The Husky Singers, directed by Dr. Alan Baker, started on the right foot with an energetic arrangement of folksongs arranged by Jackson Berkey.  “Sacramento – Sis Joe” featured Seth Chamberlain on harmonica.

As if the sound of the bluesy metallic instrument was not enough to get audience members off their feet, out swayed Brian Katzmaier dressed in a western-looking hat, dancing along to the song. Later in the program was an American Sea Shanty called “Bound for the Rio Grande.”

It was also upbeat and featured Tim Kirk as soloist.  Immediately following was a soulful interpretation of “It’s Alright” with Marcus Bearfield as the soloist.  The group ended on a hilarious note with “Manly Men” by Kurt Knecht.  This was an audience favorite and had everyone roaring with laughter as result of its poking fun at section stereotypes and the traditional men’s choir.

It was also Husky Singers member Jonathan Roe’s favorite piece to perform since it contained “very funny, very tongue-in-cheek jokes that average people and people that are very serious about choir would both be able to appreciate.”

Their segment was my personal favorite, which Roe was pleased to hear: “Our goal was to have the audience engaged and drive home the energy we had in the pieces,” he said.

He, too, enjoyed the segment. “[Husky Singers] was a really nice part of the concert because in comparison to the beautiful and slow pieces we had in the other parts, we tried to include upbeat and fast and comedic songs, which can provide the audience with a nice variety of contemporary pieces,” reflected Roe.

To end the festival, The Bloomsburg University Concert Choir sang seven pieces.  The first was “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal,” conducted by music education major Tim Kirk.  

The second was a Romani dance, “Niska Banja,” which featured four vocal soloists: Ellen Davis, Brendon Dougherty, Ashley Sulon and Jack Burns, as well as two pianists, Jordan Markham and Chris Malocheski, Katie Tampone on tambourine and Krysta Moyer on clarinet.  

Perhaps the most challenging for the group was “Horizons” by Peter Louis Van Dijk.  It was composed in 1995 for the King’s Singers tour of South Africa.  According to the program, the score “unfolds as a series of lullaby verses sun by Bushmen fathers to their infants.  

The first two verses quietly establish their worldview that a variety of Gods watch over them and provide for their needs.  When they are hungry or thirsty, they call upon the Moon to speak to the Rain or the Star to blind the eye of the Eland (antelope) that they hunt.  

The infants cry and the fathers offer soothing words, explaining their faith that the Rain and the Eland, as gifts of the Gods, will come to them ‘on the far horizon.”

Another music education major, Lexi Holtzman, conducted the next piece, “Creation.”  Beautiful voices harmonized in “Let My Love Be Heard,” which was based on a poem by Alfred Noyes. The poem can be interpreted as a prayer asking for relief of others from great hardship, and worked into the choral piece, it creates a moving song of hope.

The penultimate song was a traditional spiritual, “Rock My Soul,” conducted by music education major Nick McWilliams and featuring soloists Kayla Gleason and Brian Katzmaier.  The concert closed with V. Michael McKay’s worship song about entering heaven, entitled “Anticipation.” Dr. Alan Baker directed the Concert Choir.

Brandon Leiphart, a member of the Concert Choir, summed up the festival perfectly, stating, “the assembling of the talented students brings a joyous harmony of beautiful voices.”

What’s next for these vocal ensembles?  Join them for “Carols by Candlelight” Concert on Thursday, Dec. 6 and Friday, Dec 7, at 7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 345 Market St., Bloomsburg.

There will be no admission fee but tickets are required.  Call the Mitrani box office (389-4409) for tickets and more information.


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