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ISSUE 119 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/11/2005

'Choral Day' wows

By Jennifer Hancock
Contributing Writers

Friday, November 11, 2005

St. Olaf held the 103rd annual Choral Day in Skoglund Auditorium Sunday. More than 50 local schools and church choral groups took part in this year’s event, including St. Olaf's Manitou Singers, Viking Chorus, Chapel Choir, St. Olaf Cantorei and the St. Olaf Choir. Over 1500 singers, ranging in age from 14 to 80, participated in the event.

“Choral Day” is no misnomer: Rehearsal for the festival's mass chorus began at 9:40 a.m., and ran until the 4 p.m. closing concert. Choral Day offers local ensembles an opportunity to come together to share their passion for choral music. It is also a chance for St. Olaf to showcase its ensembles to a large audience of potential prospective students.

Both Manitou Singers, the first-year women’s chorus, and the St. Olaf Choir sang brilliant solo sets. Viking Chorus, the first-year men’s chorus, the Chapel Choir and Cantorei sang with the festival mass choir.

This year's participants were led by Professor Emeritus of Luther College Weston Noble, an internationally known conductor and clinician and holder of an honorary doctorate from St. Olaf. The only conductor ever to have been invited to lead All-State ensembles in band, choir and orchestra, Noble has served as guest conductor in more than 775 music festivals in the United States and abroad.

Noble received a warm welcome from musicians.

“Working with Weston Noble reminded me of why I am a vocal music education major,” Stef Fiser ’06 said.

The concert opened with the festival mass choir singing “Comfort, Comfort,” arranged by St. Olaf Cantorei Conductor John Ferguson.

Mason City High School’s choir, directed by Joel Everist, was the first solo choir to take the stage. Wayzata High School’s choir followed, directed by Rebecca Hagestuen-Wyffels ‘84.

After the two solo high schools, the festival choir performed “There Shall Be A Star from Jacob” from “Christus” by Felix Mendelssohn. The Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church Choir sang next, followed by the Manitou Singers.

After Manitou’s stunning “Dies Irae” by Z. Randall Stroope, Noble ascended to the podium and led the festival chorus’ moving performance of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” arranged by Gilbert Martin.

Ferguson accompanied the 1500-voice choir on organ, making this piece one of the most powerful, memorable songs of the festival.

The St. Olaf Choir made the last solo performance of the day, joined by Noble on the third song of their set, “The Lord is the Everlasting God,” written by former St. Olaf Choir director Kenneth Jennings.

As the St. Olaf Choir returned to their seats, the festival chorus stood for the closing piece of the day, “Stay With Us,” by Egil Hovland.

Even though Choral Day ensembles were challenged by the acoustic space of a gymnasium, the festival mass choir and the five solo ensembles performed marvelously.

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