Concert Chorale in the Bates Concert Hall

~posted by Carmel O’Donovan, KMFA announcer

Those who know me well (and those unfortunate enough to sit near me in church) know that I “cannot sing for toffee.” That said, I love to sing, and try not to let this minor disadvantage deter me.

By some strange quirk of fate, two of my children are extremely talented in the vocal department. Back in the UK, I fear that their talent in this area would have “fallen by the wayside” since the concept of choral singing in state-funded schools is virtually non-existent, and in the face of that, it takes real personal commitment from a very early age to develop singing skills. I seriously doubt that either of them would have persisted in their singing. Fast forward four years, and I have two children in the choir program in the Eanes School District.

Sunday, November 7th, was a “first” for me on a number of levels. It was my first visit to the Bates Recital Hall on the UT campus – what an extraordinary facility that is! It was also the first time that I had seen and heard the Visser-Rowland tracker organ. The organ was installed in 1983 and is a musical and engineering feat. With over 5000 pipes ranging from 16 feet to pencil size, the construction occupied staff for 16,750 working hours.

It was also a first for the Westlake High School Chorale. Under the brilliant directorship of Ed Snouffer and Jen Goodner (accompanied by the wonderfully talented Meg Houghton) they joined forces with the University of Texas Concert Chorale, directed by Suzanne Pence and Aaron Hufty, accompanied by Christopher Evatt. The combination was simply electrifying. The Westlake Chorale, numbering over 130 singers, sang four wonderful pieces, my favorite of which was “Sure on this Shining Night,” by Morten Lauridsen.

We then enjoyed a mixture of pieces from the UT choir including Gypsy songs by Brahms, Renaissance-based madrigals by Lauridsen, and a foot stomping piece by Moses Hogan. The two choirs then came together for the finale: Gloria (Movement 111) by John Rutter, and the air was filled with the magical amalgam of beautiful voices accompanied by the wonderful organ, in place of the brass for which the piece was written. Incredibly the two choirs came together for about an hour’s rehearsal prior to the performance; a measure of their combined talents and the skill and discipline of their directors. It was wonderful!

The great news is that, while this was a first, it most certainly will not be the last time that these choirs come together. I eagerly await their next concert!



~Carmel O’Donovan is a part-time announcer on KMFA 89.5; you can read more about Carmel and all our Music Hosts on our website.

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