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MSU Concert Choir will present free concert

Morehead State University’s Concert Choir will present a concert Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 123 East Main Street, Morehead. The event is open to the public.

“The concert program grew out of a personal trip to South Africa, my respect for the work ethic and musicality of our MSU percussionists, and our choir’s week of work with the American-Canadian composer Stephen Chatman, our Sinfonia chapter’s 2015 Contemporary Music Festival guest composer,” said Dr. Greg Detweiler, conductor of the choir.

The program titled, Going Home opens with the South African Zula freedom song “Vela! Asambeni Siyekhaya!” and the words “Come! We are going home!” In this piece one can imagine Nelson Mandela making the journey from his prison island to his home in Cape Town, from the pain of oppression to the hope of a new, free life. “Vela” is followed by Henry Loosmore’s “Why, art thou so heavy, O my soul?” which mirrors the Zulu journey from heaviness to joy.

The goal of Concert Choir’s musical journey is not Capetown, but Louisville and the Kentucky Derby. As a result of the week of work with Dr. Stephen Chatman, student organizations (Theta Pi Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Sigma Alpha Iota, NAfME, Concert Choir), alumni, Dr. Detweiler, and the university pooled funds to commission the composer to capture Southern culture in a set of five pieces under the title Due South, the last of which is the raucous “Kentucky Derby.”

The choir also will perform a tender piece from the set titled “Love, O love,” a reminisce of the idealized love that one finds in Gone with the Wind.

Dan Forrest’s Nocturnes is the centerpiece of the journey going home as it explores with percussion and choir the marvels of the night sky and the spiritual journeys of three American poets. In the first movement, “Stars,” the word “alone” is quite haunting when one remembers the tragic suicidal ending of its poet, Sara Teasdale. Forrest’s setting of the poem appropriately opens with a mysterious introduction for the word “alone,” giving way to a burst of colors as the stars appear. Indeed, the middle section of the piece is a fiery explosion of sound before a return to the sonic space of the beginning. Forrest’s second movement set’s Emily Dickinson’s poem in a spritely, youthful way. Here the poet’s continual thirst for verifiable evidence of the assurance of the eternal is hardly recognizable. She sees the regular events of the night sky as a strengthening of faith, proclaiming “Father…You are punctual.” The key word “punctual” is set with percussion providing the sounds of a clock’s cogs and gears and the chimes of a Big Ben. The last movement then matches the grandeur of an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s epic poem, Journey to India, with a majestic sound scape, ending with a recollection of the work’s mysterious opening.

Elliott Carter’s “Musicians Wrestle Everywhere” connects the spiritual struggle of “Why art thou so heavy, O my soul?” with Nocturnes as it begins its spiritual journey through the heavens. Here Dickinson’s tension between belief and disbelief and a search for verifiable evidence of the existence of immortality (another kind of going home), finds her exploring the music of nature. Her rich musical and kinesthetic vocabulary provides Carter with the necessary tools for him to create his finest and most imaginative and challenging choral work.
Concert Choir represents MSU on regional, national and international tours. Recent trips have included tours to Hungary/Austria, Costa Rica, and Ireland. During the 2014 Ireland tour, the choir competed in the Mayo International Choral Festival where they won first place in the sacred division.

The choir has been honored with an invitation to perform this same concert on Friday, Feb. 10, at 2:25 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption, Louisville as part of the three-day Kentucky Music Educators Association Professional Development Conference.

Additional information is available by calling Dr. Detweiler at 606-783-2480.