News from previous seasons.
Tis the season for gifts of music
December 6, 2002
Mike Hughes, Staff
Lansing State Journal
For local people, the human voice reigns in the next four days. There will be professional singers, from Robert Bracey to Kenny Rogers. And there will be hundreds of others singing for fun. "It warms the aesthetic part of your soul," said Dale Bartlett, who conducts the Lansing Art Chorale Christmas concert Tuesday.
Sue Thomas, who sings with the Steiner Chorale on Monday, echoes that. "It's so exciting to have people singing together," she said. Their concerts are part of a blur that begins Saturday with Handel's "Messiah" at the Wharton Center. In four days, people can choose among eight major vocal concerts.
Some include pros. Bracey is a Michigan State University professor and a national prize-winning tenor. He's doing "Messiah" in five states this month, including a production at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Still, Bracey says the Wharton concert will be special. "It's a thrill for me, knowing that all my students are there with me." His students were one reason he had a recent career boost. "I keep an eye on competitions they might enter," Bracey said. "I was surprised to see one that I was still eligible for." The International Solo Competition of New York was open to anyone under age 40. Bracey, 39 at the time, entered and won. He'll sing at a Dec. 19 "Messiah" with the Westchester Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall.
First is the Wharton concert. The pros - Bracey, Melanie Helton, Jessye Wright, Kenneth Shaw -will be backed by the 200-voice Choral Union, 50-voice MSU Chorale and a 30-piece orchestra. "It's just a kick to hear that great sound," said David Rayl, who will conduct his first MSU "Messiah." The Choral Union is one of many local groups with a blend of ages and backgrounds.
'We have some music teachers," Bartlett said of the Lansing Arts Chorale. "There are a lot of people who don't do it professionally, but love to sing." One of his singers, Jon Pumplin, is a physics and astronomy professor. Jan Krehbiel is a veterinarian. Jim Phelps is a former state education administrator. Then there are the music teachers. "I deal with kids all day," said Kristie Wiggert, who teaches music at three Lansing elementary schools. "This is a chance to sing with adults. It's something for me." Wiggert said there's another reason she sings with the Chorale. "I admire Dale Bartlett very much. He's a fine musician, a wonderful conductor."
This is Bartlett's 20th Chorale Christmas concert. "Usually, it's the largest-attended of the year," he said. After the Chorale concert, things are informal. The singers bring cookies and other finger food for the audience. The concert itself, however, is serious and demanding. There will be solos by soprano Carole Marvin and a new quartet, The Treble Makers. A highlight will be "Gloria," a 17-minute piece by modern British composer John Rutter. "It's probably one of his finest works," Bartlett said. "Over the years, John Rutter has provided some beautiful arrangements."
Contact Mike Hughes at 377-1156 or email@example.com
Sweet Stuff to Hear and Taste
December 11, 2000
Lansing State Journal
The joke among members of The Arts Chorale of East Lansing about their holiday concert is that the audience comes for the food. After a free concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday at University Lutheran Church in East Lansing, chorale members and their spouses will serve family specialties, such as the Gum Drop Cookies Louise Peppel of East Lansing learned to make from her mother. "People really do enjoy it," says Kathy Ballard of East Lansing, who has sung with the group for six years. She's bringing a pretzel dip that's been the hit of many family parties.
Chorale members can joke about the food because they know the music is really the draw. "This is a fairly serious group of musicians," Ballard says. "We do really good music." The chorale's director, Dale Bartlett, a professor emeritus of music at Michigan State University, selects what members agree is challenging music.
The Chorale started with 12 members in 1980. Its first few holiday concerts drew a small audience of family and friends, Bartlett says, and it seemed natural to offer them homemade food afterwards. "It was a family occasion," Bartlett says. "We started having some eats after the concert. It's become quite an elaborate food display. Members have learned what people like and some bring the same things every year, Peppel says.
"I do it because I love music, and I find it challenging and spiritually uplifting and fulfilling," says Peppel, who was one of the original members. "Singing well- through music is a joy to the souL" Jan Krehbiel of Mason, another charter member, says the commitment to high-quality music has been there since the beginning. The only change, he says, is an increase in the number of members, from 12 to 47. "It gives us more flexibility in doing dual choir compositions or numbers that require small groups within the larger group," he says.
The program includes a variety of music, including "The Magnificat" by C.P.E. Bach and "Go Tell It on the Mountain." "When you work with adult volunteer groups like this, it is essential to pick music that is fun to sing, challenging and interesting to sing," Bartlett says.' The group includes some rofessionally trained musicians, a few physicists, some church choir members and others who just enjoy singing. They rehearse the holiday program for more than two months, meeting one night a week at East Lansing High School.
The chorale sings in 4-part harmony, sometimes 8-part harmony, Bartlett says. He looks for melodies and rhythms that offer more than the basic and will stand up through many rehearsals. "If you sing 'row, row, row' too many times, it gets pretty boring," Bartlett says. "Music leads the person on. They should say, I want to hear more of this. I want to involve myself even more. This has interest to me. It piques my imagination."
The concert is at University Lutheran Church because of its fine acoustics, Bartlett says, but it will not resemble a worship service. The audience will join the 47-member chorale in singing a few Christmas carols.' Bartlett has directed the chorale for 18 years. The first director was Paul Schultz, who was East Lansing High School choral director in 1980. Six of the 12 charter members are still in the group: Jim Phelps, Dorothy Boettcher, Lois Brennan, Jon Pumplin, Jan Krehbiel, and Louise Peppel.
The ensemble is independent, funded through private donations, program ads, and member gifts. It presents three or four concerts a year. Mary Robison, who sings in several choirs, drives from her home in DeWitt to sing in the Arts Chorale. "This is my favorite group," she says. "It's the most challenging. The music is hard. It makes us work."
The combination of holiday music and holiday food is hard to beat, members say. "It's a free concert. The food is free, and the music and the fellowship are terrific," Krehbiel says.