Friday, June 14, 2013

Eric Conway: Members of Morgan State University Choir on Day 3 in Australia

Dr. Eric Conway, on tour in Australia with selected members of the Morgan State University Choir, writes of Day 3:

Hello again,

Today was a travel day to the city of Newcastle, about two hours away from Sydney.  We had our morning free to do as we please.  Some slept in after a strenuous day yesterday. Most travelled to a open market near Australia's China town with many items priced quite economically.  We are currently at a relative advantage visiting at this time, as the US dollar is stronger than it has been in recent times, so I am told.  

At 12:30 PM we left for Newcastle.  Our concert was with the choir from the Newcastle Conservatory of Music, who called themselves Echology.  They were a very fine choir, sang quite well.  As their conservatory-trained choir embraced a very British approach to choral singing, they were captivated with our unique sound to their ears.  The concert was hosted by Francine Bell, a local singing artist/composer.

We performed several pieces jointly.  The first and most challenging piece was Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeternam.  I was asked to conduct the Lauridsen.  We performed three out of the five movements from this work.  We then sang an Australian piece that the local choir director directed entitled Deer's Cry. We finished up the concert with music that I sent ahead for the other choir to learn:  Robert Chilcott's Steal Away, Nathan Carter's Precious Lord, and Nolan Williams' With My Whole Heart.  I chose these pieces because I believed that they could easily be put together for performance as well as give the other choir a sense of the American Gospel Music of African Americans.   

Our concerts were marketed as an American choir who performs Gospel music.  Throughout the history of this choir, we have been called a Gospel choir.  In the states we vehemently refute that we are a Gospel Choir, because we sing everything under the sun and do not want to be typecast.  However in a foreign country, I totally understand the intrigue in hearing Gospel music live.  Gospel music is often immediately assessable and understood.  When the Morgan choir sings Gospel, we are uninhibited and true to the music. Typically, as wonderful as it is to have programs when two choirs join forces, the result is often not very good, due to limited rehearsal time, lack of blending of voices with very disparate sounds between groups.  To everyone's great pleasure our blend was quite amazingly good.  Both choruses jointly praised each other before the concert during a planned meal to spark conversation between the two groups. At the end of the day, both groups had a greater appreciation of the other group, and a greater appreciation of the other culture's music. More to come. .

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