Wittenberg Choir Heads In Bold New Direction With Ohio State Tour March 24-28
Springfield, Ohio – One of the most traveled college choral groups in the United States is on the move again, this time sharing its collective passion for music throughout its home state. New director Adam Con, associate professor of music and director of choral activities and vocal music education, will lead the 38-student Wittenberg Choir on a unique Ohio State Tour from March 24-28.
The Wittenberg Choir is comprised of men and women hailing from a wide range of academic backgrounds. As the fifth director in the long history of the Wittenberg Choir and as conductor of the Wittenberg Singers, a 25-member, all-female group that includes students, alumni, faculty and even Springfield community members, Con said he believes that “music is the vehicle people are given permission to open their hearts and minds.”
A change in the Wittenberg Choir’s annual tour – which has traditionally taken place during Spring Break – demonstrates more fully the role of the choir as a recruiting tool for the university, as well as an important liaison with alumni.
“We are taking the choir tour in a new direction – to perform at schools, churches and Lutheran retirement communities to put Wittenberg’s name out there with Wittenberg students past, present and future,” Con said. “We will begin in Cincinnati and go north to Toledo, beginning a circle around the state of Ohio, continuing to Cleveland and Columbus, to introduce the opportunities available through our music department and university in the schools where the students are. The tour is only five days, but that includes 22 performances.”
The program includes sacred music by Mendelssohn and Bach and songs from Mongolia, Lithuania, India and Canada. Con also wrote the first soprano, alto, tenor, bass (SATB) choral arrangement of the Wittenberg Alma Mater, with the second verse sung by the Wittenberg Choir seniors. Wittenberg accompanist Diane Slagle and Assistant Professor of Music Jessica McCormack, soprano, will travel with the choir, and admission materials will be available for interested students.
Con asks that choir members familiarize themselves with the traditions of each individual congregation and has planned programs suited to each, performing to that tradition wherever they go. They have been invited to perform at Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and United Church of Christ congregations in recent months. The Wittenberg Singers will also appear at the historic United Methodist Church in Mechanicsburg.
“Getting out into the community provides life lessons students cannot experience in a classroom setting,” Con said. “The choir membership is beautifully diverse, and the churches have represented such a wide diversity of religious denominations. Not only do the appearances provide the members with opportunities to perform, they are learning about the wide diversity in the community. The visits present opportunities for the students to interact with members of the larger community and to learn how best to serve each congregation.”
The two ensembles also perform for various civic events and celebrations. For instance, the Wittenberg Choir has made appearances at the Masonic Community Home and Oakwood Village Retirement Community in Springfield. On tour, the Wittenberg Choir will sing at Lutheran Village at Wolf Creek in Toledo and at the Concord Reserve Community Home in Cleveland.
“The opportunities for touching people and changing lives – you never know for whom it’s the last time they will hear a particularly loved piece,” Con said. “For students, it offers life experiences that provide an opportunity to transfer lessons outside of the classroom. After each performance, members meet and talk with guests. It may take them out of their comfort zone, but we know it expands their horizons and deepens their humanity.”
Another first has the Wittenberg Singers in performance at a Women’s History Month concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, in Weaver Chapel. They will perform two pieces of choral music – “March of the Women,” composed by Dame Ethel Mary Smyth (1856-1944) and first performed by a chorus of Suffragettes exactly 100 years ago in 1911, and “Honour the Earth” by Australian composer Sarah Hopkins, that blends Native American, African, Celtic, Aboriginal and Mongolian (overtone singing) with the music of nature: birdcalls and flowing streams. These pieces will be in concert and collaboration with members of the dance department.
At 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, the Wittenberg Choir and Wittenberg Singers will present their annual Spring “Home” Choral Concert in Weaver Chapel.
Looking ahead, Con plans to take the singers to Wittenberg, Germany, to be part of the 500th anniversary celebrations of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses and his great legacy of music.
“I want to put the music out early so that interested alumni can join us soon after Commencement to rehearse and travel to Germany,” Con said. “Of course, there is the possibility that with student summer internships, we might have to travel during Spring Break. Stay tuned for more information.”
In addition to his work in the classroom and as choral director, Con serves as a writer for Revised Ohio State Standards for Music Education at the Ohio Department of Education, and he produces an electronic state newsletter for the Ohio Choral Directors Association and Ohio State American Choral Directors Association. He has served as chairman for the Ohio Music Education Association District 12 Choral Honour Choir Festival, in addition to conducting honor and All-State choirs.
Con came to Wittenberg from Georgia Southern University in the fall of 2010. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and his doctorate at the Florida State University. Con is a conductor, a visionary, a respected teacher of conducting, and a leader in the advocacy of music education. A native of Vancouver and a third generation Chinese Canadian, Con believes in a holistic approach to choral music through a unique blend of kinesthetic whole body movement and eastern philosophy.
Tour details can found at http://www4.wittenberg.edu/academics/music/choir2011.html. All performances are free and open to the public.
Written By: Phyllis Eberts and Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Erin Pence