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Diminished funding does little to deter choir program


On Sunday, Oct. 8, the Drake Choir, Chamber Choir and Drake Chorale united to present “Celebrating Sound” in Sheslow Auditorium, the Drake choral program’s first concert of the academic year. “Celebrating Sound” featured 11 distinct musical compositions and called upon over 100 musicians to present them.

Drake Chorale, an all-female ensemble under the direction of Linda Vanderpool, started off the concert with “Cantate Domino,” a piece that truly embodied the sought-after celebration of sound. The Latin translates to “Sing to the Lord a new song, He, who has done marvelous things, He has saved with his right hand, With his holy arm.” Drake Chorale followed up with “Aria,” a light and airy a cappella number that was plucked from Bach’s Suite for Orchestra No. 3 in D Major.

“That was beautiful,” one Chorale mother said. “Not a word was sung, and it didn’t even matter.”

Donald Kendrick’s “Alleluia” and Susan Brumfield’s arrangement of “No Time” rounded out the Chorale’s smooth presentation.

Drake University’s Chamber Choir, 30 members strong and directed by Dr. Aimee Beckmann-Collier, took the stage next and sang three selections. Ruth Watson Henderson’s “Missa Brevis,” characterized as a “brief mass,” was chosen to “reference aspects of early music” and a “wide range of tonal textures,” the program notes stated.

Ralph Vaughan William’s “The Dark-Eyed Sailor” treated the audience to an arrangement of an English folk song, an arrangement that boasts Williams’ “highly personal choices,” characterized as such due to the piece’s “rhythmic freedom” and featuring of “neglected melodies.”

“Gamelan,” composed by R. Murray Schafer, was the perfect piece with which to run full speed into intermission, entrancing the audience with precise rhythms and tones meant to mimic gamelan music of Bali and Java.

A brief intermission allowed for the stage to be set up for Drake Choir’s impending performance. Chairs and stands were set up to occupy the front portion of the stage, put in place for the mini orchestra that would accompany the Beckmann-Collier directed Drake Choir during “Let Thy Hand be Strengthened,” composed by G.F. Handel for King George II’s coronation. The orchestra revamped the concert’s theme, reminding the audience that both vocalists and instrumentalists have their own way of celebrating sound.

Drake Choir sang “O Sacrum Convivium” next, which is just one of 700 choral pieces composed by Vytautas Miskinis, a faculty member of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre Conservatory. This selection tackled the long-standing tradition of The Feast of Corpus Christi, and rich history was well-represented in the emotional approach by the group.

The concert was rounded out first by “Kodutee,” a heart-warming Estonian poem that tells of the journey of life, a timely selection for a group of college kids.

“Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron,” an easy-on-the-ears finale was first-year Drake Choir tenor Runal Patel’s favorite piece to perform, but he noted that performances can be deceiving.

“This was the hardest piece in our entire repertoire, and you wouldn’t know it,” Patel said. “I really enjoy singing ‘Dashing Away’ the most out of all of the pieces that we sang this concert cycle, and part of me thinks it’s because of the amount of work that we had to put in to make it sound so good.”

“Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron,” a joyous “dessert” as Patel characterized it, did its job of leaving the audience feeling warm, matching the pleasant weather outdoors. The piece also helped detract one issue that is still lingering on the mind days later.

Before teasing the final song of the concert, Beckmann-Collier grabbed a microphone and shared a few sentiments including sheer gratitude and praise for the out-of-town visitors, pride for her choral students and a preview of the upcoming events on the chorus’ schedule. She regretted to share, however, that the choral program’s funding is less than half of what it needs to be to offer the ideal opportunities to the students.  With her usual poise and warmth, Beckmann-Collier asked the audience to consider donating to the program on their way out the door but assured the audience that no matter what they wished to give or not give, she and the students were nevertheless grateful for the audience’s attendance.

“You could’ve mown your lawn, ridden your bike, sat out in the sun, and done all kinds of things that didn’t mean coming inside on a beautiful afternoon, so we are grateful that you have done so,” Beckmann-Collier said. With that, she turned and led the Drake Choir for the last time of the afternoon.

“It’s remarkable to see just how dedicated Dr. ABC (Beckmann-Collier) and the rest of the choral department are to making sure that our progress as an organization isn’t impeded,” Patel said. “You wouldn’t know unless we told you that we have such a dramatic windfall in funding.”

Drake Choir’s last note was met with a standing ovation, an indication that the Drake choral program performed well despite their financial woes.

Drake Choir, Chamber Choir and Drake Chorale are back in action on Nov. 19th and will be joined by Drake University Community Choir for an afternoon that is sure to be full of song.

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