University Chorale prepares for Carnegie Hall

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

For many musicians, performing in Carnegie Hall is the pinnacle of their career.

For the students in OBU’s University Chorale, they will get to experience performing in Carnegie Hall far earlier than most.

Sunday, April 22, University Chorale will perform a free joint concert with several other choirs, just days before they will take that same performance on the road to the famed venue.

According to its website, Carnegie Hall first opened in 1891. The New York City performing venues’ stage has been graced by famous musicians of many genres, from Tchaikovsky to Billie Holiday, from George Gershwin to The Beatles.

“Carnegie Hall represents a crowning achievement in performance,” OBU director
of choral activities and professor of music, Dr. Brent Ballweg said.

“To experience New York City and the demands and expectation of the Carnegie Hall stage provides a lifetime memorable experience.”

Organizing such an enormous trip takes tons of preparation and the event has been more than a year in the making.

“I asked my friend and colleague Jim Graves, choral director at Southern Nazarene University, if he’d be interested in combining our two Chorales for a performance of a major work with orchestra,” Ballweg said. “I think it’s a great experience to collaborate with other choirs and quite honestly, sharing the expense of the performances enables us to do it.”

The project of taking a joint trip to the hall really took off when MidAmerica Productions (MAP) joined.

“Last March, at the national conference of the American Choral Directors Association in Minneapolis, Minn. I walked by the exhibit booth of MidAmerica Productions (they produce concerts in NYC, Chicago, Washington D.C., and abroad), and they asked me if I would consider a return engagement with them (I had previously conducted for MAP),” Ballweg said.

“I shared with them the possibility that we were already collaborating about a combined
concert and so MAP (on my behalf) sent out an invitation to a number of choirs around the country, many here in Oklahoma, to join us.”

As a result of MAP’s involvement, the project now includes choirs from Moore High School, Oklahoma City Classen School of Advanced Studies and a Los Angeles treble choir.

The choirs will all join together to perform the same music, “Jubilate Deo” by Dan Forrest.

“It’s a seven-movement work that proclaims Psalm 100 in seven different languages with settings representing cultures from around the work,” Ballweg said. “The singers will be
singing in Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, Zulu, Spanish and English. It’s an exciting work.”

Since the groups come from various parts of the United States, practicing the work has been different than a usual rehearsal process.

“Even since last spring the singers have been asked to practice on their own through the use of audio rehearsal tracks that are available on the composer’s website,” Ballweg said.
“We then had an “introduction to the music” rehearsal in October where Moore and Classen SAS came and looked at the music for the first time. Here at OBU we’ve been rehearsing the music off and on for the entire year (interspersing music to rehearse for other concerts).

The amount of time the groups will be able to work all together prior to their big performance is limited.

“Sunday, April 15th will be the first time that ALL four choirs will get together for an intense two-hour rehearsal,” he said. “That’s followed later in the week by an orchestra rehearsal and then only one dress rehearsal with everyone before our two concerts.”

The choirs will perform first in northwest Oklahoma City April 21. Then they will perform a free concert at 3 p.m., Sunday, April 22, in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium, before hitting the road for their big show in New York City.

“Once we get to NYC, then there will be two three-hour rehearsals prior to our one dress rehearsal in Carnegie Hall,” Ballweg said.

The trip to New York City will provide students with many opportunities beyond the concert itself.

“Many of us haven’t experienced a big city like NYC,” Ballweg said. “Many of our students will be taking in the “Big Apple’s” Broadway shows/musicals, opera productions, museums and even a Yankees baseball game.”

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