OBU hosts spring University Chorale concert, bids Ballweg farewell

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

OBU Burton H. Patterson professor of music and director of choral activities Dr. D. Brent Ballweg directed his final University Chorale concert Apr. 16.

Ballweg will retire from higher education this summer, to take up a position as associate director and conference liaison for the American Choral Directors Association in their national office located in Oklahoma City.

“I’ve been involved with ACDA for my entire career, those 37 years on the side of volunteering,” Ballweg said.“And I’ve had a bunch of leadership positions in the state, and our regions and national organization and so now, I’m going to be on the flip side, and helping all the folks do the things that I used to be doing in those volunteer situations.”

Known to many of his students as “Dr. B,” Ballweg has served at OBU for nine years.

“He’s played a big role in my life,” senior theatre major McKenzie Reece said.

Reece studied under Ball-weg both in University Chorale and OBU’s acapella ensemble, True Voice – another vocal ensemble directed by Ballweg.

“I have loved getting to work with him and grow with him, underneath him as a student,” she said. “He’s helped me be a more collaborative singer, but also have the confidence, and him and his wife, Mrs. B, they’re like the parents of the Chorale.”

For Dr. Ballweg, the best part of his time at OBU has been getting to know and work with the students.

“It’s always going to get back to the students, to the singers and just the personal relationships that I’ve had,” he said.

At the close of the Chorale concert, the choir sang “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” by Paul Manz. Performing the piece at every show is a tradition that Ballweg has shared with his students both at OBU and at other schools.

“We’ve sung the same benediction song for all these years. The last song we sing is a motet by Paul Manz […the] text comes from Revelation 22 and so that’s always very special,” Ballweg said.

The piece has a special place in the hearts of both the students, alumni and Ballweg.

“I’m so proud of all the work that we’ve done,” Reece said.“And what this group has done over [my] four years [at OBU]. The hardest piece that I think will be singing is ‘E’en So, Lord Jesus.’ That is our anthem as the Chorale. It’s our motto. And it will be very emotional to sing that for the last time.”

Every year when the choir closes the final spring concert, alumni are invited to attend and to join in singing with the choir.

“I’ve [also] let it be known through social media and such that any some Southern Nazarene University Chorale members in the area come to the concert, we want them up there as well,” Ballweg said. “So that would be pretty special just to see a lot of former members of both places.”

Ballweg taught at Southern Nazarene University for 10 years before coming to OBU.

The performance provided a chance for students from multiple schools were Ballweg had taught to come together and celebrate his career achievements.

During his time at OBU, Ballweg taught numerous music class, directed University Chorale and True voice, and taken both groups on tour around the country.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, he led a group of University Chorale students to perform in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

“There’s always been some wonderful performances. […] I think of last year when we sang […] in Carnegie Hall,” Ballweg said. ‘Okay, New York City, that was pretty special for a lot of students.”

Other memories include performing in OBU’s annual Christmas performance.

“I think of several performances of ‘Messiah’ during the Hanging of the Green; they’re very special because I love that work, I love that style,” he said.

University Chorale successfully completes first performance of the season

By Morgan Jackson, Assistant Arts Editor

Sunday Oct. 7, the University Chorale gave their first performances of the semester at two churches in Oklahoma City. In the morning, they performed at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, and in the evening, they performed at Quail Springs Baptist Church.

At their evening performance, the University Chorale offered an exceptional performance of many different songs from their repertoire.

Freshman Landon Johnson’s piano playing at the start of the church’s service was an exceptional first glimpse of the talent that was to come from this group.

The first song that the University Chorale performed was “Sing Unto God” by Paul Fetler.

It was immediately evident that director Dr. Brent Ballweg had the complete attention of every member of his group.

The chorale’s blending together was skillful and impressive, especially considering that this was the University Chorale’s first day of performing publicly together for the year.

The second song that the group performed was “The Word Was God” by Rosepha-nye Powell. Next came “Old Time Religion” by Hogan/Harlan.

It was clear that the audience deeply enjoyed this song.

Freshman Meghan Haynes sang the solo in this song with clarity.

The movement of the group, swaying from side to side, made the song even more joyous and solidified the sheer presence of the group.

The University Chorale took a brief break from the stage while senior vocal performance major Julie Welch delivered a stunning, emotive rendition of “Love Lifted Me.”

She was accompanied by senior piano performance major Bradley Hetherington. The two performed together beautifully. Hetherington’s skillful, expressive piano playing allowed for an even more emotional, moving performances from the duo.

The Chorale returned to the stage to perform “And Can It Be?” by Dan Forrest. Juniors Kalyne Henrichsen and Bryson Cunningham sang solos in this piece.

The song was easily one of the most emotional numbers of the night. It was easy to see that this number meant something to so many members of the Chorale.

Their faces were expressive, and they conveyed the power and intensity of the love that Christ has for His people.

Next, True Voice, OBU’s acapella group, performed the song “Alive.” This song also seemed to be a crowd favorite. The group’s energy was contagious, and sophomore Raelyn Williamson did an excellent job singing the solo.

Her performance was full of joy, and she sang with very nice breath control and diction.

The University Chorale returned to the stage to sing the OBU Alma Mater and challenged the alumni in the audience to go with Ka-Rip. Next, they performed “Give Me Jesus,” arranged by Larry L. Fleming. This song allowed each section of the Chorale to shine in different moments. Each section had very good blend within itself and with the whole group.

The final two songs of the night were “Rejoice!” by Jeffrey L. Ames and “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” by Paul Manz.

Freshman Rebecca Walters and senior Chase Hendrickson soloed. During the concluding song of the performance, members of the Chorale joined hands and sang.

“To me, the way that we perform “E’en So, Lord Je-sus, Quickly Come” really signifies the fellowship between everyone in chorale and the close relationship we all share with God,” freshman computer science major Nic Stark said.

It was clear that the audience had enjoyed and appreciated the group’s performance.

This performance was a beautiful beginning to the group’s public performances. It is easy to see that University Chorale is a group filled with talent, heart and care for each other and their art.

“My experience with chorale so far has been a mix of emotions,” Stark said. “At first, I wasn’t sure exactly what I had gotten myself into and I felt inadequate, especially since I am not a music major, and I’ve never had formal voice lessons. It wasn’t long though, before Dr. B and the people of chorale essentially took me into the fold and made me feel more welcome than ever.”

Unity is vital to any team. University Chorale’s unity was exuding from the stage.

“The best thing about Chorale is the community with my peers,” senior theatre major McKenzie Reece said. “You make lasting relationships with different majors and people in different classes. I love that music is a universal language and everyone can come together and make music.”

The University Chorale performed music that honored God in lyric and in music.

“We had fun sharing our talents and worshiping together,” Reece said. “I think this is one of the strongest and most talented Chorale groups I have been a part of and I am excited to perform more this year.”

Even though they were presenting songs to their audience, the chorale made it clear that everyone in the room was worshiping with them.

“I enjoyed worshiping and I believe many others did too,” said sophomore Joel Tetmeyer.

These first two performances are just the beginning of a great season for the University Chorale. Check the OBU calendar for up-coming performance dates.

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.”

Inside look at True Voice and University Chorale

By Olivianna Calmes, Contributing Writer

Oklahoma Baptist University music groups University Chorale and True Voice have sung their way into our hearts.

University Chorale was started in 1963 and its goal has remained: “to present advanced choral literature to the OBU campus and community.”

True Voice, however, is comprised of 12 mixed voices “intended to serve as a high-profile musical ambassador of Oklahoma Baptist University. The ensemble performs literature (primarily a cappella) encompassing a variety of musical styles, including but not limited to classical, contemporary, pop, jazz, country, gospel and spirituals,” according to the official OBU website.

Both groups have gained popular standing at OBU and have attracted the attention of students as well as people outside of the school.

“Being in Chorale is such a unifying experience, and the opportunity to work alongside such talented individuals continues to amaze me,” Megan McCoy, family and community service major and education minor said.

Each led by Burton H. Patterson professor of music and choral director Dr. Brent Ballweg, the choirs have individual strengths and goals.

“[True Voice] travels a lot around Oklahoma, [particularly the] Oklahoma City area,” OBU sophomore Psychology major and Music Education minor and member of True Voice, Kalyne Henrichsen said. “We perform at churches, schools, and we help with recruiting for OBU,” she said.

“It’s great because we have a tight-knit community, and we practice at least one or twice a week, so we see each other a lot.”

“[Chorale] do[es] several different types of events throughout the year including church outings, concerts at OBU, we sing in chapel, tour around several states during a spring tour, and this year Chorale is traveling to NYC to perform at Carnegie Hall,” McCoy said.

If students want to get involved, they can begin the audition process.

“To audition [for True Voice], you pick a thirty-second portion from a song and sing it for Dr. Ballweg, and then he’ll have you sight read,” she said. “Then, [you sing] some interval parts. It is very chill and then there are callbacks a week later where you learn a small song and he sees how your voice blend[s] with other people.”

Participating also presents scholarship and travel opportunities. Both Henrichsen and McCoy emphasized they love that students don’t have to be a music major; anyone can join. There are other positive aspects to joining one of the groups.

“Anyone looking to better themselves as a musician should consider auditioning for Chorale,” McCoy said. “The directors [here] always try to make a point to help us to connect the songs to our relationship with God and how we can evangelize to people through the way that we sing and show Christ in the way that we do music,” she said.

“Their group strives to show an impression of Christ in the way that they perform and carry themselves,” Henrichsen said.

University Chorale’s next performance will be April 22nd at 3 p.m. for their “University Chorale and Friends Spring Concert” in Potter Auditorium.

University Chorale and True Voice concert March 6

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor  (Courtesy photo/The Bison)

University Chorale and True Voice will hold a joint concert March 6 in Yarborough Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.

University Chorale is OBU’s largest choral ensemble. Their co-performer, True Voice, is an a capella ensemble. Burton H. Patterson professor of music, Dr. Brent Ballweg leads both groups.

True Voice will perform first and both ensembles will perform a wide range of music from a large variety of cultural backgrounds and languages. They will perform the secular pieces “When God Dips His Love,” “Power in Praisin” and “And Can It Be.” True Voice’s secular set includes Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” “Once Upon a Time” arranged by OBU alumni Paul Langford and “Salseo.”

The musical selections will include jazz, gospel and hymns.

The second portion of the concert will feature University Chorale, which includes several students who perform in both ensembles. University Chorale’s musical selection will be quite similar in range to True Voice’s selections.

“The University Chorale will present an eclectic program dealing with Spring, nature, and love,” Ballweg said.

University Chorale’s selections will include “L’ultimo di di Maggio,” “Õhtul,” “Dieu! qu’il la fait bon regarder!”, “How do I love thee?” and “Jabberwocky” by Sam Pottle.

“[It] exposes our students to a great variety of musical challenges, musical styles, texts and languages,” Ballweg said.

“It’s a little more secular and we’re doing a lot of foreign texts that I’m excited about,” junior theatre major and music minor, Anna Tyler, said. Learning to sing numerous languages, however, is not an easy task.

“In addition to the Italian, Estonian, French, and English on this concert, for our April concert the University Chorale is also working on pieces in Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Zulu, Mandarin and Spanish,” Ballweg said.

“The literature can sometimes be kind of challenging, like the music that we sing, so just staying like up to date with it just to make sure that you’re like up to snuff like with the whole choir cause it’s a team effort,” Tyler said.

However, the rehearsal process was also rewarding.

“Being able to ‘own’ these pieces after only five weeks of rehearsal,” Ballweg said. “That’s a real challenge to master the notes and expressive intricacies of the pieces in such a short time.”

Tyler spoke of her experience both rehearsing for the performance and as a two-year member of University Chorale, very positively.

“We’re experiencing more different styles of music, and I think that it’ll be really fun for an audience to see,” Tyler said.

She said the atmosphere in Chorale is highly supportive.

“It’s a lot of fun, and you definitely become a family when your part of Chorale,” she said. “I think singing and music in general are very important because I feel like music has a way of expressing things and emoting emotions that can’t be expressed if they weren’t written in music. It just pulls at your heartstrings in a certain way,” Tyler said.

University Chorale and True Voice’s joint concert provides an opportunity for students to explore some of the emotions that music can both evoke and express. The performance is free and open to the public.