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Washington and Lee University Hosts High School ChoralFest Concert

The music department at Washington and Lee University will conclude a full day of music with the first High School ChoralFest Concert on Saturday, March 20, at 7 p.m. in the Wilson Concert Hall.

The concert will feature four high school choirs, W&L Chamber Singers and W&L University Chorus performing jointly with the W&L Repertory Dance Company. Each chorus ensemble will perform individually, and then combine as the Festival Mass Choir under the direction of conductor Weston Noble.

Tickets are not required for the event, but seating is limited and on a first come-first serve basis. Doors for the concert open at 6:30 p.m.

Now the Johnson Professor Emeritus of Music, Noble had a 57-year tenure as a conductor and teacher at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. “The chance to work with a conductor of Weston Noble’s ability is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of the W&L and high school students. Professor Noble is truly a legend in the American choral world,” said Shane Lynch, director of choral activities at W&L and the head clinician and organizer of the ChoralFest.

Noble received global acclaim as the conductor of the Luther College Nordic Choir from 1948 to 2005; the Luther College Concert Band from 1948 to 1973; and as guest director for over 900 All-State bands, orchestras, choirs and festivals across four continents.

In 1994, the North Central Division of the American Choral Directors Association established the Weston H. Noble Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Choral Art. Additional awards include the Robert Lawson Shaw Award from the American Choral Directors Association and the 2008 Midwest Clinic Medal of Honor.

He was awarded the St. Olav’s Medal from King Harald V of Norway for his contributions to Norwegian-American relations; he also was awarded honorary doctorates by five universities.

The Festival Mass Choir will perform Alan Pote’s “God is Our Refuge,” which will feature W&L brass instructor Peter del Vecchio and senior Nicholas Neidzwski on trumpet. Also featured is Dan Davison’s rousing “Ritmo,” including W&L alum Joshua Harvey, pianist for the W&L chorus, and Judith Clark, rehearsal pianist for the chorus, performing the challenging four-hand piano parts. The Festival Mass Choir will also provide the Lexington debut of Dr. Lynch’s original composition “Beneath Angel Wings.”

W&L’s University Chorus will present Matthew Culloton’s haunting “Famine Song,” a work about Sudanese women finding hope through basket weaving while suffering through horrendous drought, famine and genocide in the 1980’s. The piece will be performed with members of the W&L Repertory Dance Company, directed by Jenefer Davies, assistant professor of dance.

“‘Famine Song’ gives us the opportunity to branch out and combine the arts, bringing the aural and visual impact to the audience member in new and powerful ways. The addition of movement, Davies’ creative choreography and lighting, adds enormously to an already intense work,” said Lynch.

The Chamber Singers will debut Eric Whitacre’s epic “Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine,” an ambitious extended work that seeks to provide insight into the dreams of genius Leonardo da Vinci as he struggles attempting to create the world’s first flying vehicle.

Participating high schools include the Blue Ridge School’s Men’s Choir, directed by Dolores DeAngelis; Fredericksburg Christian Schools’ “Savior’s Echo,” directed by Kathryn Kulp; the Heights School’s Men’s Chorus, directed by Dr. Kevin Strother; and the Oakcrest Women’s Chorus, directed by Anne Miller. They will perform a variety of works as individual choirs, from Morten Lauridsen’s tender “Dirait-on” to the festive Sally Albreacht work “Sing Alleluia, Clap Your Hands.”