More than 500 high school students gathered for the Choral Festival at Concordia last weekend.
“Way to go, sopranos!” Dr. René Clausen’s amplified voice boomed through Memorial Auditorium.
Keeping a choir of 500 on track may sound difficult, but all eyes were riveted during this rehearsal.
“In the choral worlds, [Clausen] is an incredible role model, teacher and mentor. What he does with the choirs here is second to none and I try to bring his style into my classroom,” says Melanie Kjellberg, choir director at Andover, Minn., who brings dozens of students to the festival.
Clausen and conductor Dr. Michael Culloton worked with the students Friday evening and Saturday. The students traveled to Concordia from 57 high schools across North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota to have this collective experience.
“It’s been really nice hearing us all together,” says Michael Borysewicz from Larimore, N.D.
Some of the students came from large choral programs while others are from medium or small programs.
“For these students to be a part of a 500-member choir may be a new and perhaps unique experience for them,” Clausen says. “The thrill of bringing 500 singers together to rehearse and perform fine choral literature is very exciting.”
The high school students get to work with college musicians as they rehearse with and hear The Concordia Choir and the first-year choir, Kantorei.
“I like that they mixed us with the college students and they show us what they get to do here at Concordia,” says Rebekah Baquera from Fargo North High School.
The music selected for the program was challenging with students working on it well in advance of the festival. The rigor didn’t faze the students.
“I really like working with Dr. Clausen. He makes it fun,” says Anissa Long of Fargo North High School.
And Clausen loves the challenge and reward of working with young musicians.
“Young people are vessels waiting to be filled,” Clausen says. “My goal with them is to take whatever gifts I have in choral music to teach and lead them to a discovery of musical expression that will lift them to the experience of beauty within a choral community.”