Brigham Young University's premier vocal ensemble, the BYU Singers, will become the first and only collegiate group in the nation to perform at all three of the country's top choral music conferences when the group sings at the inaugural National Collegiate Choral Organization conference Nov. 4 in San Antonio, Texas.
The BYU Singers, under the direction of Ronald Staheli, previously performed at the national convention of the American Choral Directors Association in Los Angeles and at the Music Educators National Conference in Salt Lake City.
"It's like winning the grand slam of choral music," said Rosalind Hall, conductor of the BYU Men's Chorus and mixed-voice Concert Choir. "Invitations to occasions like these do not come easily. To be invited to perform as the headliner choir at any choral conference is an honor, but to be invited to perform at the inaugural conference of this prestigious organization is a singular honor."
Performances at all three conventions are by invitation only. The BYU Singers are among only a handful of collegiate groups to perform regularly at these national conferences.
Nevertheless, the Singers and their conductor are no strangers to high-profile performances. The ensemble represented the United States at the World Choral Symposium at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. They have also given concerts at Carnegie Hall, Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center, Vienna's Musikverein, and at the Rimsky-Korsakov Music Center in St. Petersburg, Russia.
"We're honored to be included among such elite company at the first NCCO conference," said director Ronald Staheli, who notes that groups from only four schools — BYU, Yale, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison — were invited to come.
"This is not only an incentive to push ourselves but also an opportunity for students to get a real sense of what's going on in the choral music world. They will have a chance to hear other top groups and appreciate the high caliber of choral singing that has long been a tradition at BYU.," Staheli said.
Upon hearing of the BYU invitation, composer Eric Whitacre, who has composed works expressly for the BYU group, said, "The BYU Singers are an extraordinary choir, truly one of the best in the world. The magic they make seems to blossom naturally from their sense of blend and musicality, their depth of soul and the profound and unwavering conviction they bring to every phrase and every turn of note. They have brought my music to life time and time again, through stunning live performances and timeless, iconic recordings"
The BYU Singers' San Antonio performance will include music from nearly every period. They will sing compositions by William Byrd from the Renaissance period, Gottfried Homilius from the Baroque period, Franz Joseph Haydn from the Classical period, Felix Mendelssohn from the Romantic period, as well as several contemporary composers such as Gabriel Jackson, Tarik O'Regan and Colin Mawby.
"A lot of this music is not commonly heard, which will give those coming to the convention a little something out of the ordinary," Staheli said. "I think it's some of the best choral literature available. The students have been quite fierce in their preparation. It's wonderful to see them go at it. We're learning a new piece just about every day."
Learning, memorizing and polishing a 45-minute program in only eight weeks has been an intense undertaking. However, Staheli said, "There's nothing quite like listening to a choir who feels deeply about what they're singing. I believe that will come through."
The Brigham Young University Singers is a small, select choir of flexible singer-musicians. As one of the major touring ensembles of the university, the Singers have traveled throughout the United States, including Hawaii, as well as Russia, Israel, Australia and New Zealand throughout Western and Eastern Europe, including the Baltic states, and West Africa. The choir has released five solo albums as well as several other collaborative albums.