If you’re like me and haven’t attended a choral concert in years (or decades), clearly a lot has changed. While a few choral standards were performed, what struck me most about tonight’s performance was the number of modern pieces and the variety of languages in which the music was performed including Gaelic, Hindi, Latin, Swahili, and Haitian Creole. Concert choir of my childhood it was not, and delightfully so.
The night began with Appleton West’s Kantorei taking the stage conducted by Dr. Kevin Meidl. Their four Celtic songs composed by Michael McGlynn, showcased a range of choral styles which demonstrated the broad talent within their choir. “Fionnghuala” with its rapid diction, was a perfect start to the Festival of song.
Chilton’s Concert Choral under the direction of Joy Paffenroth followed onstage to perform three diverse pieces. Their first song was a classic American-style gospel arrangement followed by a traditional American choral piece. In stark contrast, their final number was the fast-paced show tune recognized by most, “Jai Ho,” from "Slumdog Millionaire."
Without missing a beat in the energy that filled the venue at this point, Freedom’s Green Sing Gold Choir directed by Lori McNamara Maves, stepped onstage and continued to enliven and invigorate the audience with “Baba Yetu,” a Swahili adaptation of “The Lord’s Prayer” from Lion King. They concluded with two pieces whose origins were in prose and later set to music. One sung in Latin, the other in English.
Neenah’s Chamber Choir then took the stage directed by Amy Westcott and captivated the audience with their opening number, “Twa Tanbou,” written by Sydney Guillaume, a Haitian immigrant. Their final two pieces, similar to Freedom’s choir, were poetic conversions into song.
The Festival’s format of each school performing individually afforded the opportunity to see the various choral styles and talents within the school before uniting them under the direction of the illustrious Jerry Blackstone to sing Lauridsen’s, “Sure On This Shining Night,” and “Alleluia.” These two songs yanked at your heart for the simplistic beauty of watching so many young, local vocalists perform onstage with profound professionalism and talent. What I was quite sure of by the end of the evening was that my night was certainly shining from the beauty through song in which they shared and that I would surely return again next year to see the next installment of Appleton’s Got Talent.