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Friday, September 22, 2023


UH’s concert chorale accepts invitation for chorallaboration

The UH concert chorale hosted groups from San Jacinto College and Colorado State University on Saturday.  |  Courtesy of Moores School of Music

The UH concert chorale hosted groups from San Jacinto College and Colorado State University on Saturday. | Courtesy of Moores School of Music

The sounds of perfectly blended voices singing in unison swelled and reverberated in the recital hall as choirs quickly warmed up and practiced the evening’s repertory.

As the clock ticked closer to 7:30 p.m., a blur of black swarmed into the Moores Opera House. Bright, young faces formally dressed in black dresses, suits and bow ties sat near the stage in anticipation of the performances they were going to give.

Moores School of Music hosted Colorado State University’s Chamber Choir for the first time. UH also collaborated and organized the event in concert with local San Jacinto College-Central for a night of choral music bliss Saturday. Each of the three choral directors had the opportunity to flex their musical and artistic muscles while representing their college and providing their students a great opportunity to broaden their horizons.

The collaborative effort was especially important for UH’s Concert Chorale. Saturday night marked the “unofficial” premiere of a top secret choral composition that will be premiered in Germany at the International Chamber Choir Competition in May. The name of the piece is being kept a secret until after its premiere.

Betsy Cook Weber, director of choral studies and conductor of the Concert Chorale at UH, seemed enthusiastic about the collaborative. By accepting the invitation from Paul Busselberg, SJC-Central’s director of choral activities, for a three-way collaborative performance with CSU’s Chamber Choir, she nurtured community outreach and collaboration.

“(CSU) will bring sounds that are new to our ears, and we will learn from hearing them,” Weber said. “I think the special nature of this particular collaboration is giving the Houston area the opportunity to hear a choir with which we are unfamiliar.”

James Kim, CSU’s director of choral activities who is with the Chamber Choir across Texas, mirrored Weber’s enthusiasm.

“We are very excited, and it’s been awhile since we have been on tour outside of Colorado,” Kim said. “The students are really excited.”

In the collegiate choral world, Kim and Weber have each gained a reputation for themselves and their choirs.

For Busselberg, it was instinctive to bring these choirs and directors together. Using his close ties with both institutions, he instigated the plan for a mammoth collaborative effort. Busselberg was especially excited about the opportunity as an “underdog” to work with larger, more advanced choral programs.

“I have learned to really value collaboration, and that collaboration is where it’s at,” Busselberg said. “Whatever we can do together makes us stronger.”

The evening’s program was filled with a wide variety of music from 20th century to baroque and Jewish polyphony to Christian spirituals.

Each group performed a separate repertory, but the evening ended with the three choirs combining to form an 82-piece choir under the direction of Busselberg. They collaboratively performed an arrangement of “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?” by Moses Hogan in a performance that made one’s hair stand on end.

The “top secret” choral piece was at the center of UH’s choral performance. The composer, David Ashley White, was in attendance. After hearing his piece performed for the first time, his eyes watered and turned a slight hue of red, glistening even in the dimly lit opera house.

After the concert, choir members gathered in the foyer of the opera house and mingled. Michelle Girardot, a UH vocal performance freshman and member of the Concert Chorale, enjoyed working with the other choirs.

“We’ve worked on our own different stylistic things with (“Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”), and they had completely different takes,” Girardot said. “It was interesting to see their ideas and hear them.”

For Alan Austin, the general and artistic director of the Texas Music Festival, the night’s performances were impressive and promising, and UH’s Concert Chorale was “so solid.”

Community outreach and artistry seem to work hand in hand.

It’s events like this that open up perception and experiences, Busselberg said.

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