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Concert Choir and Chamber Singers have successful tour of Ireland


Morehead State University’s Concert Choir and Chamber Singers recently finished a tour of Ireland. Both choirs competed in the 2014 Mayo International Choral Festival. (View photo gallery)

The 50-voice Concert Choir won the festival’s sacred music competition while the 18-voice Chamber Singers won the grand prize as the best choir at the festival.

“This was truly the most wonderful international trip I have ever been on,” said Dr. Gerg Detweiler, director. “The blend of competition, wide ranging acoustical venues, joint concerts and full concerts, natural beauty and hiking opportunities, and the welcoming, friendly Irish people made this trip an unforgettable one.”

The choirs presented 12 performances in their seven days. These included six full and joint concerts, one mass and mini concert, one impromptu performance at Ireland’s largest medieval parish church and four competition performances. The joint concerts allowed the MSU choir to perform with 12 other choirs across the world.

According to Dr. Detweiler, each concert venue presented the challenge of a new acoustic ranging from the extremely live St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church in Galway to the dry concert hall in Morehead’s sister city, Ballymena.

The choir had to sing in three very different acoustical sites ranging from very live to very dry. The tour ended in the perfect acoustic of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.  Along the way, the choir had the pleasure of singing in three medieval churches including Christ Church Cathedral, Dubln (1172), Ballintubber Abbey (1216) and St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, Galway (1320).

“The choirs sang beautifully and passionately. They took energy from the acoustic of the cathedral in which they were singing, from the enthusiasm of the Irish people, from a spirit of competition, and from the family they had become. Each student shared from their hearts and now understands the power of an international choir tour, the beauty of singing music in the space for which it was written, and the way music can bridge the gap between cultures.  It is an experience no choir member will ever forget,” said Dr. Detweiler.

Competition day started at 5:30 a.m. as the 18 Chamber Singers gathered for breakfast and a rehearsal before the 9:30 a.m. competition performance.  Performing, the group felt, they done well, however, but lost by one point to finish second.

According to Dr. Detweiler, the afternoon competition started late. The groups had to scramble to rehearse the evening competition pieces and do a joint rehearsal with all the winning choirs for the Mass Choir finale.

The evening competition featured the winners of the eight individual categories.  Other categories included: choirs from Ireland, female voices, male voices, gospel choirs, Gaelic/Celtic language, and barbershop. MSU’s Chamber Singers was the first group to compete and Concert Choir was the second to the last.

“When the announcement was made for the winner all we heard was Morehead State University.  We did not know which choir won, but everyone was jumping up and down hollering,” said Dr. Detweiler. “An official came upstairs to the balcony to bring me down on stage.  I was yelling to find out which MSU choir had won. Our students never knew until I returned from the trophy presentation that the Chamber Singers had won the Premier Competition.”

The long day concluded with the MSU Concert Choir joining with the second place Enchiiadis to sing the piece we just happened to have in common in our repertoires, Bruckner’s “Os Justi.”

“Overall, this trip was a life changing experience. Competing and winning was quite an experience and a major accomplishment for our university. It was the icing on the cake for this exceptional tour of Ireland,” said Sam Fowler, a junior, music education major.

MSU’s Concert Choir and Chamber Singers performed a wide variety of pieces throughout the tour.  Audiences immediately warmed to the choir with the opening “Down to the River to Pray” processional. Other pieces fit in perfectly along the way such as singing the beautiful “Jesus Dulcis Memoria” by Ivo Antognini during Sunday communion at the Sligo Cathedral. 

According to Dr. Detweiler, “the piece which never failed to bring tears to everyone was the 'Irish Blessing' arranged by Graeme Langager.”

“The beauty of Ireland was part of every day.  Every bus ride was a visual joy of wondrous scenery—always green and always changing.  Sheep were everywhere. The group walked through the Cliffs of Moher, the Giant’s Causeway, and the Connemara region, including the Kylemore Abbey and Gardens. They toured Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Bushmills Wiskey Distilllery, and Dublin, including the Trinity College Library with the famous Book of Kells, completed around 800 AD,” said Dr. Detweiler.

Dr. Detweiler is in his 16th year as director of choral activities at MSU. Besides conducting the Concert Choir and Chamber Singers, he teaches conducting, voice and vocal pedagogy. He holds the Doctor of Music Arts degree from the University of Illinois and has studied Dalcroze Eurhythmics at the Manhattan School of Music. His choirs have toured Costa Rica, Canada, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, and have appeared at state and regional conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and the Music Educators National Conference. He was the 2002 Kentucky Music Educators Association Teacher of the Year in College-University Education.

Additional information is available by calling Dr. Detweiler at 606-783-2480.

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