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River Campus hosts seventh annual Men’s Choral Festival
Community members, families, friends and teachers of nearly 80 area high-school boys came together for the seventh annual Men's Choral Festival Friday, Oct. 20, in the Bedell Performance Hall at the River Campus.
Throughout the day, choir students from seven different schools participated in voice lessons with collegiate faculty, rehearsed music, collaborated with other students and took tours of the River Campus. By the end of the day, they learned three choral pieces to be performed with men from Southeast’s University Choir in the evening, under the direction of clinician Derrick Fox, director of choral activities at University of Nebraska-Omaha.
During the concert, Fox said it is important to work in a noncompetitive group like a choir, because it helps create a bigger result considering as they’re all working toward the same goal.
“If you’re not worried about standing out, everybody’s personal musicianship is a part of the result. It’s like a house of cards; if one of those cards is out of place, the delicate structure comes all the way down,” he said.
Barbara Lamont, director of choral activities at Southeast, planned the day for the Men’s Choral Festival. She said the event is put on each year to encourage young men to continue to sing in choir. It also gives them the chance to sing in a men’s choir, which might not be a possibility in their own schools.
“Women’s choirs are more common in high school because more women sign up for choir," she said. "It's less likely that a guy will have a chance during his high-school career to sing with a men's choir."
She also said with students coming to see the River Campus to see the facilities and meet faculty, the event is a powerful recruiting tool.
Perryville High School sophomore Devon Phillips said he’d been in band since sixth grade and played football, but he was new to choir and this was his first time in a large men’s ensemble.
“Right now in our choir, we’re doing more classical things, but this is my first experience singing more gospel-like tunes. I liked it a lot, because gospel choirs are always so nice to listen to,” he said.
Phillips also enjoyed the facilities the River Campus has to offer, and said he was thinking seriously about coming to Southeast after graduation.
“When I come down to SEMO for things like this, I’ll make sure I’ll come over here [to the River Campus] because it’s a nice place, and there’s always going to be a good group of people here.”
The 78 high schoolers shared the stage with the university’s chapter of Phi Mu Alpha, a men’s music fraternity, that gave a short a capella performance. Lamont directed both the Southeast Chamber Choir and University Choir, who sang separately before the Men’s Festival performance. These groups showcased their talents through selections like an arrangement of the well-known tune, “Greensleeves,” and “Butterfly,” a contemporary a cappella piece composed by Mia Makaroff.
Fox then took over the stage with the Men’s Festival choir, who performed a Handel piece, a Newfoundland folk tune, and an arrangement of an American tune by Fox himself, called “My Spirit Looks to God Alone.”
Fox later said having a men’s choir event can get rid of unnecessary stereotypes in music. He said instead of having men sing loudly and strongly about being pirates while girls sing about love and flowers, they program in a way that goes against those stereotypes.
“Everybody’s capable of singing about love, about adventure. It used to be OK to pidgeon-hole genders with certain [musical] styles. But now, to be real simple about it, it’s not,” Fox said. “We’re all different people outside of our gender.”