Competing against choir professionals and more experienced singers, the East Central University Chorale claimed the top prize in the Mixed Choir: Level of Difficulty I category at the Golden State Choral Trophy 2016, an international competition conducted in Monterey, California, Nov. 24-25.
The ECU Chorale vied for the trophy in the finals with four other choirs, two from the United States and two from Poland. Eighteen choirs in all were selected to take part in the festival, representing the Philippines, Croatia, Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Poland and the U.S.
“The Chorale and I were ecstatic about the win. The trip would have been a success, however, if we had not won,” said Dr. Steven Walker, director of the ECU Chorale. “We were competing against professional choirs with much older and experienced singers.”
The prestigious competition was hosted by Interkultur, a non-profit German cultural organization and the largest promoter of international choral competitions and festivals in the world. This was the first time in which the ECU Chorale has participated in this event.
The University Chorale also had the opportunity to have a private session with Morten Lauridsen, the preeminent composer of contemporary choral music in the world today.
“It was an intense educational experience for all of us, getting to hear the other great choirs, the adjudication sessions with the judges and getting to work with Morten Lauridsen,” Walker said.
The Chorale performed the following repertoire at the competition: “Chanson Eloignee” by Lauridsen; “O Magnum Mysterium” by Victoria Davidson; “Libra Me” by Anthony Sylvestre; “Entreat Me Not to Leave You” by Dan Forest; “A Spotless Rose” by Paul Mealor; “To the Mothers of Brazil: Salve Regina” by Lars Jansson and Gunnar Eriksson.
By winning the Golden State Trophy, the Chorale qualifies for the “Champion of Champions” at the World Choir Games for the next five years.
“We hope to be able to make that work. If not, we will still definitely be doing this again,” said Walker.
This wasn’t the first time that the ECU Chorale has achieved high honors. On five occasions, the group has been chosen as the university level chorus to perform for the Oklahoma Music Educators Association State Convention.
“We have very talented students,” Walker said. “The vast majority of our singers were members of the OKMEA All-State Chorus while in high school.”
Zach Garcia, a senior vocal music education major from Ada, was thrilled and praised Walker for his ability to prepare the Chorale for the competition.
“I’m pretty overwhelmed. I’m thrilled and so excited for this group, Dr. Walker and the university. It’s an all-time great moment as an ECU student, something I’ll always remember,” said Garcia. “It was pretty intimidating (going up against experienced professionals), but we stayed really focused. Dr. Walker had us focused and ready to go at the right time. The group was very motivated. I felt like I was on a basketball team like in a sports scene.”