The Browning Center was filled with the sound of choral music as the Weber State University Performing Arts Department presented the Fall Choirfest on Wednesday night.
The WSU Concert Choir and Chamber Choir were conducted by Mark Henderson, professor of choral studies, and the Concert Choir was also guided by student assistant director Rawson Butts. This concert was also the debut performance of a piece called “The Lamb,” which Butts composed around the famous William Blake poem.
“If you’re out there in the choir and make a mistake, everyone doesn’t know,” Butts said. “But if you make a mistake when you’re directing, everyone does.”
He said he believed that the choirs performed well during the concert and said they were incredibly responsive to conducting throughout the night.
“Conducting is about communicating,” Butts said. “The conductor interprets the music, and the choir must be able to communicate the way he interprets it so that they can give that interpretation to the audience.”
Lucinda Langley, an alto member of the Concert Choir, enjoyed performing in the show because of the variety of styles the choir sang.
“I really enjoy the satisfactory feeling you get just after a performance, ” Langley said. “I feel I worked for this. We did well, and I think I sounded better than I did the last performance.”
Butts said he holds a lot of reverence for his own choir director, Henderson, and wishes to use Henderson as a role model when running his own choirs in the future. Henderson debuted an original piece during the Choirfest as well, titled “A Light Exists in Spring,” which was performed by the Chamber Choir, a smaller group of about 30 members.
The WSU choirs shared the stage with some high school hopefuls, as Northridge High School’s Excalibur Choir and its director, Jermay Marden, were the special guests for the night. They also performed two musical theater duets as a preview from their upcoming show, The Phantom of the Opera.
During the concert, the style of pieces changed frequently between group numbers and small ensembles as well as between classical choral numbers and gospel songs. Many pieces were in foreign languages. A particular piece called “Lux Aurumque” was the last song of the set performed by the Chamber Choir, and all the lights were blacked out in the theater during its performance.
“It was peaceful and surreal,” said Shaundra Cragun, a music student at Utah State University who happened to be a member of the audience that night. “It took you away, and the world was better when you got back.”
Cragun enjoyed the number of pieces presented and compared the concert to “going on a journey.” She also noticed Henderson’s impact on the choirs during his conducting.
“The director had such an influence on the kids in the choir,” Cragun said. “He pulled things out of them they couldn’t by themselves.”
Aside from Henderson’s enthusiastic lead and the premiere of Butt’s composition, the choirs may have had another motivation during the performance, as the show was dedicated to one of their own members, Kari Gardner, who died on Sept. 2.
“Choir is about learning,” Butts said. “Life is about learning. You learn all kinds of skills when you’re a choir about working with others, about listening and about responding appropriately.”
Students interested in participating in choir can either sign up for Concert Choir, a class requiring no audition, or can try out for Chamber Choir, which auditions its members the semester before becoming active in the choir.
Students can find out more information about auditions or future chior performances by calling the Performing Arts hotline at 801-626-6800 or by checking the website at www.deparments.weber.edu/Performing Arts.