Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
April 3, 2008
DeKalb — Northern Illinois University’s Chamber Choir took the national stage in November of 2006 as one of eight choirs in the United States selected to sing before the annual conference of the National Collegiate Choral Organization.
On Saturday morning, April 12, the singers will take the stage in Milwaukee as the only collegiate choir from Illinois invited to perform at the 61st biennial national convention of the National Association for Music Education (MENC).
The 24 vocalists will offer a half-hour program “refined to the highest level of musicianship,” director Eric Johnson says, as they perform “for an audience of people who understand what they’re doing.”
Meanwhile, Johnson added, the continued coast-to-coast acknowledgement of NIU’s choral excellence marks another example of distinction for prospective students and to employers of future NIU music graduates.
“It’s really cool and a very intense experience,” said Johnson, director of choral activities in the School of Music. “It’s more recognition for the school and, subsequently, their program. These kids are going to be music teachers and performers, and that we’re doing these concerts means their degrees mean more – things are happening here.”
Adding to NIU’s reputation at the Milwaukee conference are Mary Lyn Doherty, a professor of choral music education here who will present an interest session, and Gordon Krauspe, an NIU alum who directs the choir of Wheaton Warrenville South High School, which is also performing.
Johnson and the choir members have prepared traditional choral anthems along with modern works, spirituals, Estonian folk songs about marriage and more. All are performed a cappella.
They will have additional chances to rehearse during a four-day tour of Wisconsin on their way to Milwaukee.
First on the itinerary is a 7:30 p.m. concert Tuesday, April 8, at the First United Methodist Church, 230 Wisconsin Ave. in Madison. A concert at Mequon United Methodist Church, 11011 N. Oriole Lane in Mequon, Wis., begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10.
Wednesday is scheduled for a choral exchange with the Lawrence University Concert Choir, whose director is a friend of Johnson’s. Both groups will perform at First Congregational Church of Appleton, 724 E. South River St.
“Lawrence has a really good choral program, probably one of the best in Wisconsin, and we’ll be singing for each other,” Johnson said.
“The exchange serves many purposes,” he added. “We get to run our program again, just for the practice of doing it. We also get to show off what Northern is doing for choral students, building up our reputation in the region, and we get to hear the Lawrence Concert Choir. Through such exchanges, our singers improve their performing skills and develop a stronger musical foundation to be future choral music educators and singers.”
Anyone who attended or watched broadcasts of the Feb. 24 memorial service to remember NIU’s tragedy is unlikely to believe the NIU Chamber Choir needs improvement. Their gorgeous tones and harmonies rang through the Convocation Center that evening, stirring emotions and tears.
Johnson said he has received congratulations and thanks from across the country.
“Everybody who heard it was just astounded by the musicianship and the emotional depth the choir was able to pull off in an incredibly emotional situation,” he said. “Most important to me was that when we were in a back hallway waiting for security to clear … a lot of the family members were exiting past us, and many of them just stopped to say how much they appreciated our contribution to the service.”
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