Arts & Culture

ACDA conference: long but worthwhile


“The ACDA proves how vital and strong the power of music really is. It’s not only what this country needs right now, but especially what we need here in the land of 10,000 choirs.” David Erickson, Augsburg Student ACDA Chapter President

The sentiments expressed above about the American Choral Directors’ Association (ACDA) conference fit nicely with my own interpretation of what it was like. Held at the Minneapolis Convention Center from March 8 -11, with group performances at nearby Central Lutheran Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church, and Orchestra Hall, the conference was four days filled with some of the best vocal groups, vocal pedagogues and music educators around the globe.

The conference held over 5,000 registered attendees, a whopping 30 percent of whom were students, from all 50 states and several different countries. It is curious to think that while the ACDA has been in existence for about the past 40 years, this conference was the first time in its’ history that it has been held in Minnesota. Considering that Minnesota is not only home to the largest number of choirs in the US, but holds a national reputation for excellence in musical education.Of particular interest Wednesday were the Reed Academy Singers, who sounded like a significantly more mature choir than their middle school ages would at first have one belief; the Keller High School Chanteurs, an all-female ensemble on a level rivaling Augsburg’s Riverside Singers; and the Eric Whitacre Singers, whose sound is just as crystal-clear live as they are on their Grammy-winning recordings.

The second day of the conference introduced the Rutgers University Glee Club, whose powerful sound bears a striking resemblance to the world-renowned Orthodox Male Choir of St. Petersburg; the Bakk Middle School of the Arts’ Girls Chorus, which had the clearest group diction and section blend I’ve ever heard from a middle school group; and the Fountain Valley High Troubadours, who had a unique timbre about them unmatched by any other group present at the conference.

Friday’s performers included the Crystal Children’s Choir, an all-female Asian youth choir that blended traditional Asian music with Western choir arrangements; the Luther College Collegiate Chorale, who gave a trib- ute performance to Weston Noble, a recently-deceased legendary music educator; Cantamus of Iowa State University, whose performance included a beatboxer and a world premiere of a challenging piece entitled “Yukamari Uta”; and the Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual & Performing Arts’ Women’s Chorus, which gave a premier performance of an unpublished arrangement of “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.”Saturday’s talents were the Cincinnati Children’s Choir with the Keystone State Boy Choir, who were performing for the first time at an ACDA event as an entire group, who gave the most musically- interesting version of Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols”; the Texas State Boys Choir, who performed a theatrical version of the same work not done in 40 years, using the original costumes and set props from that same performance; the Wartburg Choir, whose finale performance introduced me to the lovely tones of a new percussive instrument called a hang; the Hamilton Children’s Choir, whose lead singers, despite not yet having entered into adolescence, incorporated extremely difficult vocal techniques that sounded more extraterrestrial than human; and finally, the St. Olaf Music Department, whose Orchestra, five choirs and four conductors gave a repeat performance of their 2016 Christmas concert, in a manner not unlike Augsburg’s Advent Vespers.

This was my favorite performance, as five new works were premiered and it was nice to attend a college Christmas concert as an audience member for the first time, instead of as a performer. All performances mentioned are merely the high- lights of a truly spectacular showcase of musical talent.

Despite the exhausting schedule, the conference was a huge success by any measurement and I am very appreciative that Augsburg’s student chapter of the ACDA enabled me to attend. I look forward to more events put out by the ACDA in the future.

This article first appeared in the Friday, March 31, 2017, Edition of The Echo