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Choral festival causes April Madness fervor

On April 15, approximately 400 high school choralists will take part in what, for many of them, will be a once in a lifetime experience — the chance to perform at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis as part of Concordia University, St. Paul’s Choral Arts Finale. The choral competition, now in its seventh year, is meant to give students an all-state choral experience similar to what their peers who experience all-state sports tournaments.
The Choral Arts Finale is made available by the vision and generous support of David and Sandy Frauenshuh, according to Dr. David Mennicke, music department chair at Concordia. The Frauenshuh’s daughter was active in her high school orchestra and went on to sing in the St. Olaf College Choir. Throughout her high school experience, the Frauenshuhs found that their daughter did not have opportunities similar to her athletic peers.

Dr. David Mennicke, Concordia’s music department chair, conducts student musicians at the 2011 Chorale Arts Finale held at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Photo provided by Concordia University, St. Paul

About 20 to 30 choirs will audition. Through a blind audition process, five choirs are selected.

As a member of Concordia St. Paul’s Presidential Advisory Council, and a self-proclaimed “music appreciater,” David Frauenshuh found that funding Concordia, St. Paul, was a perfect fit to develop a program for a top level choral music festival. And, in addition to creating a highly competitive choral event, Frauenshuh appreciates that it is a chance for students in secular schools to sing spiritual compositions.
“It’s really good for the young people. What we really like about it as people that follow Christ is that, through this music, public school kids sing songs of praise,” Frauenshuh said. “As I serve on Concordia’s board, I thought it would be just wonderful if young people had a place to show their skill, the hard work they put into it, and then were given a chance to perform in a place above where they usually are.”

Taking the stage

For Buffalo High School, the chance to perform at the Concordia Festival is an exciting opportunity for the 60-voice mixed choir. Michael Walsh, Buffalo’s choral director, said members are especially excited to compete, as they have applied several times before, but this is the first year they have been selected.
“Lots of directors aspire to participate [in the Concordia event] because it is so selective. We feel lucky to be a part of it,” Walsh said.
In a given year, about 20 to 30 choirs will audition. Through a blind audition process, five choirs are selected. In all, 37 choirs have performed. Of these, four choirs have performed twice.
This year five choirs will come to St. Paul for the privilege of studying under renowned conductor André Thomas, the Owen F. Sellers professor of music, director of choral activities, and professor of choral music education at Florida State University. A distinguished composer and arranger, Thomas has conducted choirs at the state, division, and national conventions of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), and his international conducting credits are extensive.
The beginning of the day will allow the students to take part in a mass choir rehearsal, working with Thomas. They will then attend short clinics, where they will again work with Thomas for feedback and suggestions. Following a dinner provided by Concordia, the students will head to the highlight of the day — performing live at Orchestra Hall.

A performance to remember

For the students and their directors alike, this opportunity is a great honor. Mark Potvin, director of the Princeton High School Concert Choir, that will perform at the Concordia Choral Art’s Finale for the second time this year, said the 2007 experience was delightful for his students and he looks forward to returning.
“When we did it in 2007 the choir left just on cloud nine,” Potvin said. “The clinics were wonderful. And they really felt a sense of accomplishment after the performance at Orchestra Hall. They felt like state champs. They walked off the stage at Orchestra Hall and felt great. That’s what I’m most looking forward to this year.”
Princeton, a town of approximately 4,500 residents located about 60 miles north of the Twin Cities metro area will bring 47 singers to the event this year.
During the Orchestra Hall performance, each choir will perform their individual pieces. There will also be a mass choir piece, “Vos Populi,” by Giedrius Svilainis, to be directed by Thomas.
The April 15 event at Orchestra Hall is open to the public. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13 and can be purchased at the box office. The festival performance will be broadcast on Channel 45; check local listings for exact time.
More information is available at

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