By Sarah Chaffee; originally published in PHC Herald, 10/29/10. Pics by Art Cox.
Patrick Henry College
Dr. Steve McCollum, Director of Music, addresses the 130 students gathered for the College's first Choral Festival Concert
A mass of middle school and high school choir members in blue polos and white shirts filled the bleachers in the Barbara Hodel Center gym, talking excitedly in the moments before the first ever Invitational Choral Festival Concert began. One hundred and thirty students from Trinity Christian School, the Patrick Henry Academy Choir, the New Covenant School, and the Patrick Henry College Chorale performed in a joint concert on Wednesday, Oct. 27.
Late last spring, Dr. Steven McCollum, director of music at Patrick Henry College, contacted Trinity Christian School of Fairfax and New Covenant of Lynchburg, institutions that share PHC’s emphasis on the liberal arts, and invited them to a joint concert. “They have interest in creating ties to the college,” McCollum said.
“Don’t want no short people ‘round here,” the New Covenant Upper School Chorus sang. “Short people are just the same/As you and I.” Their performance of R. Newman’s piece drew smiles from the audience. New Covenant’s chorus director, Walter Pennock, noted that the song is an indictment of prejudice.
“Beauty hushes in a season,” the Women’s Honor Ensemble from Trinity Christian School sang. The eight member group performed “Bloom,” a soft piece about flowers that quickly fade. The Upper School Chorus sang “Je le vous dirait,” a French song.
“Through the dark I sense a holy passion…I feel the flames of eternity in my soul,” the Patrick Henry Youth Music Academy Choir sang, performing “Through the Dark,” a piece adapted from the writings of Helen Keller. They also performed “Hisakata No,” a Japanese poem set to a modern tune.
“Now is the month of maying, when merry lads are playing,” the Patrick Henry Chorale sang. They also performed “Cantate Domino.”
After singing some music on their own, the choirs joined together to perform two pieces: a modern arrangement of “Ubi Caritas,” and “Domine Fil Unigente” from Vivaldi’s Gloria. “Ubi Caritas” is a chant which, when translated, begins “Where charity and love are, God is there.” Vivaldi’s “Gloria” piece sets the Christmas text to music, according to McCollum. “Domine Fil Unigenite” specifically focuses on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son.
“Students in the choir are eager to share and to get to do some mentoring through this art form,” McCollum said, noting that the Patrick Henry College students in the PHC Chorale have been especially diligent in learning their own music so that they were prepared to encourage the visiting high school students. “We are able to mentor high school students and create connections with institutions that are like-minded.”
“I’m excited that the Chorale and music department have grown to be able to present a more collegiate presence,” McCollum said. He noted that expanding the influence of the music department through larger events is a necessary part of growth. Hosting Wednesday’s event also introduced many high school students to Patrick Henry College. New Covenant School brought its entire senior class to the event.
“I have never sung in a choir that big before. It was exciting to be a part of something that large and robust,” PHC Chorale member Erik Landstrom said. “It was the ultimate surround sound.”
Landstrom had the opportunity to talk to several of the visiting choir members. “They’re really great people. They’re from different backgrounds, but they all have a passion for music.”
“The students [from the other choirs] seemed pretty excited and engaging,” chorale member Sarah Watterson said. “I loved singing “Ubi Caritas” and “Domine Fil Unigenite” together because they were my favorite songs from chorale.”
“I enjoyed the music of the groups, particularly the youth academy - not only with their harmony but with their expression,” freshman Lauren Busch said. She noted that her favorite song was “Through the Dark.” The concert spurred her excitement about future chorale concerts. “I’m really excited for the orchestra concert with choir.”
“It’s an inspiration to hear your amazing music,” said Rodney Appleton, director of the Patrick Henry College Youth Music Academy Choir, commending the other choirs in attendance.
At the end of the program, McCollum presented framed certificates to Debbie Koth, director of the Trinity Christian School chorus and ensemble, and Pennock for their participation in the 2010 Invitational Choral Festival Concert.
“The choral festival was an immense success and we should do it again next year,” said chorale member Caroline Byrd.