Lawrence singers perform in the Twin Cities

Elena Amesbury

Tuesday, Feb. 6 Cantala, Lawrence University’s women’s choir, boarded a bus to the Twin Cities to tour as a part of Lawrence’s new “Focus On” program.
The program, started in 2006, aims to spread Lawrence’s name throughout Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Paul. These cities are specifically targeted because within them live the greatest concentration of Lawrence alumni, and they hold massive recruiting potential.
Performances and talks have been occurring for the past year, and are scheduled at least through 2007. Last March, Concert Choir toured Chicago, and this spring break the Wind Ensemble will do so as well.
Planned in both Chicago and the Twin Cities are talks by Lawrence professors about their various areas of knowledge, as well as talks relating to Freshman Studies material to entice prospective students.
Phillip Swan, conductor of Cantala and Assistant Professor of Music, noted that most of the people they encountered who had heard of Lawrence had never actually had any firsthand experience with a Lawrence representative or ensemble.
“I think they were pleasantly surprised,” he said. “They seemed impressed with the literature, and the high caliber of musicianship. Although the women are music majors, they sing well in a choir. It was good to share what we can do.”
Cantala performed in three high schools. In Stillwater, they performed a joint concert with the high school’s women’s choir.
The final concert was held at the historic Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, of which Kathrine Handford, Lawrence’s university organist, is the music director and church organist.
Fanfare Brass, an LU student brass ensemble, also performed at the church, and a number of other Lawrence musicians played with Cantala.
Swan noted that the tour was overall very productive. “It was good for recruitment and PR,” he said. “But it was also very good for the ensemble to bond as a group.”
On the particular value of a tour, Swan said, “It was a chance to see some music mature. Mostly music is performed once, but on a tour it is sung multiple times. It is good to learn to dig in and keep it fresh. It was a unique opportunity for musical growth.”
Heidi Jastram, a senior French major in Cantala, agreed with Swan. “It was really good for the choir to get together and experience what touring is about,” she recalled.
“To be a cohesive group and to know each other outside of choir is necessary for good music.”
When asked about the highlights of the trip, Jastram mentioned a break from singing where the choir was invited to Jason Berkowitz’s house for “desserty things.”
Selections from the tour will be performed at the upcoming choral concert, “A Century Apart” at 8 p.m. in the chapel on Feb. 23.