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Choirs unite for final show

Treble+Choir+and+director+Dean+Luethi+rehearse+Tuesday+afternoon+in+the+Kimbrough+Music+Building+for+the+Choral+Concert+taking+place+Thursday+night.
Treble Choir and director Dean Luethi rehearse Tuesday afternoon in the Kimbrough Music Building for the Choral Concert taking place Thursday night.

Treble Choir and director Dean Luethi rehearse Tuesday afternoon in the Kimbrough Music Building for the Choral Concert taking place Thursday night.

Treble Choir and director Dean Luethi rehearse Tuesday afternoon in the Kimbrough Music Building for the Choral Concert taking place Thursday night.

CATHERINE KRUSE | Evergreen life editor

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From Rossini opera to Southern gospel, four WSU choirs will perform their repertoires through a global music excursion.

The WSU Madrigal Singers, Treble Choir, Tenor/Bass Choir and Concert Choir will hold their spring concert tomorrow, their final concert of the semester.

The song choices includes four Chinese folk pieces (sung in Mandarin), the Rastafarian song “By the Rivers of Babylon” and “Doluri,” also known as “Georgian Drum Dance.”

Dean Luethi directs the Treble and Tenor/Bass Choirs. Previously, these two groups were part of a single choir known as University Singers, he said. This is the first year the University Singers has been split into the treble, tenor/bass, soprano and alto choirs.

In comparison to the Madrigal Singers and Concert Choir, which students audition for, the Treble, Tenor/Bass, Soprano and Alto Choirs are non-audition classes for which students can sign up. They also satisfy the arts requirement for undergraduates, Luethi said.

“These choirs are sometimes more for the beginning singers,” Luethi said. “Sometimes, they don’t know what a treble singer is, no matter what gender they identify with.”

Luethi said one of the goals for splitting up into the different choirs was to make the groups more inclusive to all genders. While the choir members did not have to audition — except for members of Madrigal Singers, Concert Choir and the opera workshop — there is an assessment at the beginning of the semester to determine where each singer could fit best.

Last year, a student who identified as male asked to sing in the Tenor/Bass Choir. Luethi said the assessment process is helpful in identifying a singer’s voice in terms of vocal health. Someone may identify as male, but their vocal ability places them in the soprano and alto range, seemingly made up of mostly female singers.

“We make every effort to make [students] comfortable and maintain vocal health,” Luethi said.

The spring concert is the culmination of the choirs’ work over the course of the semester, he said. For the Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers, this is the culmination of their work over the entire year.

“It’s imperative that the students coming in here continue to gain and have an appreciation for the choral canon,” Luethi said.

The standard repertoire and style for choirs, especially tenors and bass singers, involves more contemporary work from the late Baroque era.

“Most of it is contemporary and part of the reason is they started writing music in the Romantic era for men’s choirs,” Luethi said.

Much of the music for this concert is sacred music, such as “By the Rivers of Babylon” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Luethi said he often encounters the question, “Why do sacred music when many folks may not believe in a religion?”

He said this answer comes through the choir performers becoming actors as well.

“If we took out the sacred music in choir, 60 percent of our repertoire would be gone,” he said. “There is so much sacred music out there that’s beautiful and speaks to a purpose.”

So if a member of the choir does not believe in God but must sing a gospel hymn, Luethi asks them to focus on something they do believe in to capture that emotional content of the story the song tells.

The variety of vocal ranges make collaboration amongst the choirs interesting. While the choirs are not singing together in this upcoming concert, their individual vocal ranges offer an interesting selection of music, Luethi said.

Logistically, when the choirs get together to perform, dress rehearsals are often the only times the choirs can congregate to practice. The normal class time rehearsals are back-to-back, and students cannot always be asked to stay for longer than that due to their schedules, Luethi said.

“We feel prepared for our concerts, but the time we put it together is very short,” he said.

The choirs collaborate a couple times a year for a variety of concerts and gigs, including a performance at the Golden and Diamond Alumni Banquet. Luethi said at one point in the performance he told the alumni to “sing as you are able with us,” as the choir sang the alma mater and fight song.

“All these seniors are standing and singing with us,” Luethi said. “[The choir] stood taller and, when we got off, the kids were saying, ‘That was really cool.’ ”

The Spring Choral Concert will be held at 8 p.m. on Thursday in Bryan Hall Theatre. Luethi will direct the Treble and Tenor/Bass Choirs, and Lori Wiest will direct the Madrigal Singers and Concert Choir. Admission is free and open to the public.

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Choirs unite for final show