University Singers world-class

By By Christie Franke

By Christie Franke

The University Singers are world-renowned. No joke.

The choir, directed by Brady R. Allred, won the European Grand Prix International Choral Competition last year in Tolosa, Spain. This followed a slew of other prizes, including the Grand Prize at the 2005 Florilge Vocal de Tours international Choir Competition in Tours, France (They also won five additional prizes there, including first in free program and second in mixed choir). This year, their French tour was fully funded — a change, as students usually pay their own way.

The Singers have been performing for the U for years, but it was not until Allred arrived five years ago that they began to receive such acclaim.

“He put the choir on the map,” said Rachel Webster, a veteran member. Every year since Allred has come, the Singers have toured.

Allred is a professor of music and a director of choral studies at the school of music, and he has an international reputation for producing excellent choral sound. Upon arrival, Allred “shook up the entire department,” and took the Singers on tour. They have been touring ever since, traveling not only through France and Spain but throughout Europe — including tours in Italy, Germany and England. Because of Allred’s excellent leadership, the choir has blossomed.

“He’s fun to work with,” said Will Perkins, a tenor, and choir members agree that Allred is very personally involved with them. “He makes it life- changing,” Perkins said.

The music school is “growing fast,” agreed Mike Gates, president of the choir. The U’s school of music is becoming known as an incredible place to learn.

Accordingly, auditions for the Singers are difficult.

Singers are auditioned every year — consequently, one never hears the same choir twice. Singers are tested on their sight singing, language fluency and a prepared piece, which is usually performed in the first concert. The sound is “really good” this year, Webster said describing the audition process. Choir members agree there are no weak singers.

The repertoire consists of a wide variety of music. The singing styles are appropriate to the pieces — no operatic overtones to gospel music here — and once again, Allred is instrumental in getting the singers to understand the pieces. Audience members also gain a sense of what the music is trying to convey — a challenging feat, as it takes a talented choir and a dedicated director to get the emotion of a choral number across.

This semester there are four concerts presented by the Singers. The first is a choral showcase this Saturday that serves as an opening act to introduce the various choirs to the school. The pieces that open this semester are a wide range of gospel, folk songs, madrigals and motets.

The fall concert is in late October, and the school of music Christmas concert is in December, right before the semester ends. In November, the Singers will perform in the annual scholarship concert, held for donors to the school of music. The money donated is given to the music students — not just choral, but to everyone, from opera singers to the orchestra.

Don’t miss out on the concerts this semester. The school of music showcase will be Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Libby Gardner Concert Hall. Tickets are generally $3.50 for students, but prices might vary for some concerts.

Check out for more information on the choir and upcoming events.

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