Every year St. James Concert Choir attends Big South Choir Festival. This is an event that is usually hosted each year at a school that participates in this event. This year the festival was hosted by Worthington High School, with schools such as St James, Jackson, Blue Earth and Luverne attending with their choir groups.
This year’s guest directors were Dr. Andrew Robinette and G Phillip Shoultz III. Robinette is an assistant professor of music at South Dakota State University. Shoultz is an associate conductor of his own choral ensemble VocalEssence. Each choir had a session to sing their two songs they would perform in the evening concert for one of these directors, they were given feedback on how to improve their song quality or simply the way they enjoy the song. Honor choir had their rehearsal earlier in the morning with Robinette. During mass rehearsal, more than 300 students sat in the Worthington high school bleachers, all five choirs were directed by Shoultz. Each song he would make the mass of students sing, he stopped every so often to fix the way some vowels were sang and the way everyone sang using their emotions. To help students sing with their emotions, he spoke to the choir asking them to simply just watch his movements as he conducted the choir with only the music coming from the piano. This went on for three and a half hours as rehearsal is important. After rehearsal, each choir was released to go eat lunch and prepare for the evening concert.
During the evening concert, parents, community members and each school’s choir directors sat in the bleachers awaiting performances they’d never forget. Each choir group performed their two songs, with St. James Concert Choir performing both “Requiem” arranged by Eliza Gilkyson and “Run Mary Run” arranged by Brian Tate. As each choir performed and finished, they sat in the bleachers they had earlier rehearsed in. Once every choir was done performing, the mass performance began as Shoultz led the choirs through each song. The first song being “Jubilate Deo” by Peter Anglea, “Count the Stars” by Andy Beck, and lastly “Ukuthula” by Andre van der Merwe which is a African folk song arrangement. During the last song, all the choir members from each section held hands and swayed as they sang. This was a great symbol as to how music brings people together, no matter how different you may be from the person standing next to you.
Concert Choir has attended this event for about 6 years. This is a wonderful experience as choir director Alison Kulseth describes “We get to hear what other choirs are doing and we get to see how we rate with other choirs, so it keeps us competitive.” she continues with “I love the fact that you get to work with other directors” and finishes it off by encouragingly saying “It’s a really uplifting experience.” Overall attending, this event helps our choir group learn and grow together. With that said, Concert Choir hopes to attending and learn from this kind of experience and attend next year’s Big South Choir Festival in Luverne.