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Choral Festival shows what high school vocalists can do

Dr. Kimberly Dunn Adams

High school choirs in Southwest Michigan have been rehearsing for the 15th Annual High School Choral Festival. The event is put on by the Kalamazoo Bach Festival this week at Kalamazoo College.

The Vicksburg High School Chamber Singers practiced last week, under the direction of music director Dusty Morris. All of the singers auditioned for the chance to perform with the ensemble. Morris says they are a dedicated group of vocalists.

“You know on the difficulty of the repertory, these kids like a challenge," he says. "There’s not much out there that I wouldn’t bring to these kids, because they’re up for it and they’re ready to work for it.”

This week’s festival is known as a non-competitive master class for choirs. Ten high school choirs from the region will gather in the Light Fine Arts Building at Kalamazoo College tomorrow and Thursday. Each will perform two pieces for Dr. Kimberly Dunn Adams, who is the Director of Choral Activities at Western Michigan University. She will coach each group and then all the choirs will work together on a new piece of music, chosen by Adams.

“The piece that we’re doing as the massed choir sing is called Music Down In My Soul by Moses Hogan and the very first words of the piece are 'I hear music in the air.' It’s all about how there is music everywhere, between people and down in your soul and everywhere else," says Adams. "The conclusion the piece comes to is there must be a God somewhere, because this music is so special and so all encompassing. And, I think it’s a good message to give to these high school students who came together from different high schools. The fact that they make music together and they’re going to go back to their separate programs and their separate high schools and share what they learned with their friends. I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

Dusty Morris says the Vicksburg High School Chamber Singers are eager for the chance to show the coach and other high school students what they are capable of musically.

“They get to hear someone who works at the university level, who has all the credentials that Dr. Adams has, work with them and give them pointers on the music and that’s a learning experience for me, too," says Morris. "So, I really like it because we get to learn new things, then take the music back to rehearsal.”

Other choirs taking part in this week’s festival are from Kalamazoo Central, Battle Creek Lakeview, Portage Central and Portage Northern and Three Rivers. Adams says the event celebrates how choral music is made.

“Well, I think this festival is particularly special because it’s not about adjudication, it’s not about competition and it’s not about winning high scores," Adams says. "It’s about coming together, making music in front of each other, and then working together to create better solutions and make it to the next level of performance.”

The Kalamazoo Bach festival’s 15th Annual High School Choral Festival is from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on both Wednesday, February 6 and Thursday, February 7 at Kalamazoo College.

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