LU choirs feature African-American music

Meghan McCallum

This Friday, Oct. 22, the Lawrence University choirs will give a concert titled “An American Story (A Celebration of Life).” Richard Bjella, Phillip Swan, and special guest Brazeal Dennard will conduct. The concert will include performances from the chorale, Collegium Musicum, men’s choir, women’s choir, concert choir, and the combined choir.Samantha Gibb, freshman women’s choir member, said that the choirs have been preparing for this concert since they first started auditions around the first week of classes.

“My favorite song,” Gibb said, “Is ‘There is a Balm in Gilead.’ It’s a ballad piece with pretty harmonies and good soloists.”

According to Bjella, the concert’s theme is African-American composers and poets. Most of the pieces are spirituals and gospel songs.

Two of Dennard’s own arrangements will be performed in the concert. The first, “Hush! Somebody’s Callin’ my Name,” will be performed by the men’s choir. The combined choir will perform the second, called “Great Day.”

Another highlight of the concert, Bjella said, is the premiere performance of “The Heart of a Woman,” a blues song which was composed by Leslie Adams and will be performed by the concert choir.

Valerie Raedy, a freshman in women’s choir, said that her favorite song in the concert is “To My Girls,” based on a series of poems by the African-American poet Lucille Clifton.

“The altos have a really interesting part and the harmonies are great. I really like the final chords at the end, too,” she said.

Raedy also said that “Dance Ablaze,” derived from poems by Minnesota writer Jody Kristine Johnson, is an “awesome” song.

According to Gibb, the women’s choir has roughly 40 members. All together, said Bjella, the choirs comprise about 180 Lawrence students. The women’s choir and concert choir both practice four times per week and the chorale practices twice a week.

“I’m very excited about the concert,” Bjella said. All are welcome to see the LU choirs at 8:00 tonight in the Chapel.