By Rebecca Vikari
Deep in the heart of Texas beautiful choral voices could be heard this past weekend as the BYU Singers and three other university choirs headlined at the National Collegiate Choral Organization inaugural Conference in San Antonio.
Rosalind Hall, conductor of BYU Men”s Chorus and Concert Choir was a member of the BYU singers when she was a student here at BYU and has watched their journey as they prepared for this conference.
“BYU Singers are one of the leading university choirs in the country,” Hall said. “They always work at a very fast pace and sing very challenging material.”
The BYU Singers have performed at national conferences like these before, but they are generally held during the second semester, which allows the singers at least six months to prepare. This particular convention, however, was held now, which gave the choir only eight weeks to prepare.
The group”s director, Ronald Staheli, received the invitation about six months ago and spent the summer planning the program. He sent music to the students over the summer and asked them to not only look at it over the summer, but also to study it very seriously.
“They have been working at an incredible pace for eight weeks to get this program not only learned and memorized, but beautifully polished,” Hall said.
The group began rehearsals the first day of school and has been learning about a song every two days in order to accommodate their 45-minute program.
BYU Singers sang their entire program for the first time a week ago in the Museum of Art before leaving for Texas.
“They were worried about having the stamina to do that because it”s very demanding technically,” Hall said. “But, the entire program was stunning and a real credit to them, to Dr. Staheli and to the university.”
Choir directors from colleges and universities from across the country attended as well as experts from around the world. The music was classically oriented but ran the gamut from Renaissance music to works from modern day composers. The 45-minute program the Singers performed was designed to feature pieces that work well together. Dr. Staheli created the program with pieces in English moving through pieces in Latin, to German and then in the center of the program were three American love song waltzes. Then, the program reversed itself and ended up back at the English pieces.
“So in choosing it, I wanted it to have that design,” Staheli said. “Pieces that work well together and also contrast it. Then the whole program hangs together really well, there”s a real sense of momentum and continuity. I like that a lot.”
The lengthy program included many challenges such as memorization, and a lot of persistence and pacing while singing. Another challenge was in moving from one stylistic period to another. “You
“You have to adopt a whole different performance practice as you move from one song to another,” Staheli said.
Although the convention was a great opportunity for the singers to showcase their talents as well as network and hear other choirs, the BYU Singers also went with the sense of being able to share their testimonies.
“There is a spiritual dimension to it that is always important to us,” Staheli said. “We go with an attitude of sharing, hopefully presenting something that will allow the Spirit to touch the hearts and minds of those that listen.”
The students worked incredibly hard to prepare to represent BYU at the convention.
“I think it”s definitely the most intense preparation that Singers has ever done,” said Josh Hendryx, a senior from Dallas studying Political Science. “It”s taken a lot of energy and concentration from all the members of the choir individually and collectively not only to memorize the music, but to polish it and refine it. We”re all really excited about it.”
The BYU Singers is the smallest mixed ensemble and is highly selective in its audition process. Most are music majors and all are upper classmen and graduate students. They have become a tight-knit group and have really grown to love each other a lot as they have worked so closely together singing and learning and sharing that with others.
“I”m really proud of these students,” Staheli said. “They have really come up with the goods.”