The largest choir in the country performed in Decorah, Iowa on Monday January 13, comprised of over 1,000 singers, seven choir seniors were able to take part in the event.
“Dorian at Luther College is a big choir festival that over 1,000 students from all over the Midwest come to to prepare a few pieces for a concert after just two days,” said participant Kaylana Pribbenow.
The students arrived at the campus at 1:30 Sunday afternoon. After brief introductions they moved into rehearsing all of the pieces for the following night’s performance.
“In our rehearsal’s the most challenging thing was being comfortable with my part. We don’t always have the correct voice assignments in choir because we don’t have many guys but here I am actually classified as a Bass 1 and have to make sure I understand how to sing in this section,” said participant Eric Wojtalewicz.
One of the most unique parts of the experience, beside there being over 1,000 other singers was that three of the five composers of the pieces that were sung were actually in attendance for rehearsals and performances. The SSA piece titled “Song of Miriam” was composed and conducted by Elaine Hagenberg for the event.
“My favorite song that we sang was ‘song of Miriam.’ It is very fun to sing all women pieces and to have the composer of the song actually there and conducting us was very cool. She told us why she wanted to use the poem in a piece of music and what she was thinking as she wrote the song, which is a lot more meaningful than just thinking composers throw notes on to the pages,” said participant Carolynn Nelson.
Two other composers joined everyone for the festival. Kyle Pederson who composed ‘Can we Turn Darkness to Light’ and James Deignan who composed ‘I Celebrate Myself’ came to talk about their compositions and hear the choir perform.
“My favorite piece was ‘I Celebrate Myself’ it was really interesting to get to hear the why behind the song. He explained that he has always struggled with self doubt and this piece is his expression of how he’s learning to appreciate himself,” said participant Norma Dick. “I also like that it challenges me in my part. It has higher and longer notes than I’m used to sing so it made it fun.”
After just a few rehearsals the choir was getting their music performance ready. There were over 250 students in each of the four choir sections, which are Bass, Tenor, Alto and Soprano. Working collaboratively with that many people is a challenging task, especially when it comes to sound quality and ending at the same time.
“The most challenging part for me when coming to this experience was probably when we had to combine all of our voices with hundreds of other people from our section because the blend and diction of everything had to be extremely on point. So if one person was a little bit off, it kind of made things difficult for the whole choir,” said Pribbenow.
Dorian was an experience that these students will not soon forget. Singing in a group is compelling, and singing in a group of 1,000 is astounding. It was a great opportunity to build skills and community within one choir.
“What I enjoyed most about the festival was making friends because I’m pretty outgoing so I find it easy for me,” said participant Norma Dick. “Especially meeting people from all of the different states who drove here just to sing. We share the common interest of singing and learning music and that’s what makes it really fun to be here.”