Statesmen perform concert before Mother’s Day

Celebrating the mothers of the men in the singing ‘brotherhood’

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Photo by Rachel Helgeson

The Singing Statesmen invited alumni members to join them in performing a number of songs on stage at their concert Friday.

On Friday, in time for Mother’s Day, UW-Eau Claire’s male choral ensemble the Singing Statesmen held a concert in Gantner Concert Hall, featuring a special song titled “M-O-T-H-E-R” by Theodore Morse.

While performing the song, members of the 57-man choir ran dramatically into the audience to gift their mothers with roses, kisses and hugs, eliciting laughter and smiles from the rest of the audience.

Sara Sorensen, mother to first-year Statesmen member Jacob Englund, received a rose and a kiss on the cheek from her son during the performance. Sorensen said she loves coming to Statesmen concerts and has previously attended two others.

The concert also featured soloists Alex White, Julie DeBoer, Ben Mackie and Kevin Ruhl, a student assistant conductor.

DeBoer has been a part of the UW-Eau Claire voice faculty since 2015 and sings locally as well as in a professional choir in Chicago and in the Grammy-nominated South Dakota Chorale.

“She is an amazing voice professor,” Frank Watkins, director of choral studies, said. “She is very busy performing. This is her first time with the Statesmen.”

Audience member and girlfriend to Statesman Englund, Emily Thalacker, said she was impressed by the variety of talent within the ensemble after hearing Mackie perform a solo on the French horn.

Thalacker, who said she considers herself musically inclined, appreciated the musical cohesiveness of the group.

“I think that they’re very talented,” Thalacker said. “You can tell that all of them know their stuff really well, they blend and their voices go together really nicely. They do a good job of paying attention to their conductor and you can hear that with their clean cut-offs.”

Englund joined the Statesmen because he wanted to fulfill his desire to be in a musical ensemble, his mother said.

“Music is his life, it’s in his core, and it makes him happy to sing,” Sorensen said.

At each concert, the current members invite alumni to the risers to join them for traditional Statesmen songs “I Have Had Singing,” “Hail University,” “University Hymn” and “Fight Song” for Eau Claire.

Watkins said the group of men pride themselves on their dedication to and love for the music as well as their camaraderie within the “brotherhood” that has been in existence for 52 years.

“They’ve been around for a long time and have a wonderful history and have really valued the fact that once you’re a part of the ensemble you’re a part of it for life,” Watkins said. “If you are ever a Statesman, you are always a Statesman.”

The ensemble toured Central Europe this year, including Prague, Vienna and Budapest. Every two years the group tours internationally.

Each semester they perform several times, but their spring schedule is busier than fall, Watkins said, as they perform at the Viennese ball as well as in state-wide tours and on-campus concerts.