Clearwater Choral Festival showcases Midwest talent

A weekend of music involved voices of high school students and Blugolds alike

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Photo by Elizabeth Gosling

UW-Eau Claire’s Women’s Concert Chorale shows personality during their concert at the Clearwater Choral Festival over the weekend.

With just little more than a month into the semester, the choral ensembles at UW-Eau Claire already have one concert under their belt.

The Clearwater Choral Festival brought college and high school singers to the stage in an effort to encourage younger students to continue music as they get older. The festival took place Friday and Saturday for a total of three concerts.

Frank Watkins, director of the Women’s Concert Chorale, Concert Choir and the Clearwater Festival Choir, said the festival is geared towards high school students in the hopes of exposing them to music-making at the university level.

This was the 25th annual festival. High school students from Wisconsin and Minnesota came to take part in making music. On Saturday, they performed a concert together.

“It is great because it is an opportunity to bring high school students on campus and for them to experience choral music-making at UW-Eau Claire,” Watkins said.

A Cappella Extravaganza started off the festival. Eau Claire’s Chamber Choir performed, as well as groups such as the Innocent Men, Fifth Element, Callisto, Audacious, Impromptu, Soundscape and Eau Claire Memorial High School’s Vocal Jazz group.

On Saturday, the Women’s Concert Chorale and The Singing Statesmen performed in Gantner Concert Hall in Haas Fine Arts Center. The festival concert followed later in the evening, featuring Eau Claire’s Concert Choir, Onalaska High School’s concert choir and the festival honor choir. The latter group was composed of high school students from Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The repertoire showcased at the first concert varied. To start off the concert, the Women’s Concert Chorale performed “Travelin’ Home, arranged by Andrea Ramsey. This rendition of a classic song featured rounds, various harmonies and many warm colors. It brought to mind images of the fall season and the importance of family.

Sarah Joosten, president of the American Choral Directors Association on campus, said in her introduction of the Women’s Concert Chorale that their ensemble embraces the feeling of sisterhood.

Following, the choir sang one song in Latin, “Cantate Domino,” composed by Rupert Lang. This is a song with multiple arrangements and was more modern with light harmonies that repeated themselves throughout the song.

This part of the concert concluded with “Amazing Grace,” arranged by Michael Hanawalt and “Las Amarillas,” arranged by Stephen Hatfield. The final piece was the crowd pleaser. Sam Fischer, senior biology and Spanish student, said it was his favorite song.

He said the women always put on a good show and did an excellent job.

Katie Ahrens, senior communications student and Women’s Concert Chorale member, said music is a universal language and this festival is special because it has an impact on younger generations.

The Singing Statesmen also performed. They started off in the aisles with “Tshotsholoza,” an African-like song arranged by Jeffrey L. Ames, as they rhythmically walked to their places on the risers.

They sang four other songs during the concert. “Shenandoah,” arranged by Matthew and Shelly Armstrong; “How Can I Keep From Singing,” arranged by Gweneth Walker; and “Prayer of the Children,” a hopeful song depicting images of childhood wishes. The concert ended on a lighter note with “Fergus an’ Molly,” a folky love song, arranged by Vijay Singh.

The Clearwater Choral Festival showcased many different levels of singers and facilitated musical connections between high school and college students.