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Choral Arts to celebrate anniversaries with circus parade, 30-foot-high puppet and more

Lehigh University Choral Arts will present Visions, Evocations and Dreams, a choral theater performance of music from Europe, Australia, the Philippines, India and the Americas on at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 29 and 30 in Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall.

The theatrical choral extravaganza, Visions, Evocations and Dreams, is the first of three anniversary concerts celebrating Steven Sametz’s 25 years at Lehigh, the Choral Union’s 20th Anniversary season, and the 130th year of choral music at Lehigh. The opening concert of Choral Arts’s season reflects the innovative programming that is a hallmark of Lehigh’s choral program.

Patrons are invited to attend a free, pre-show lecture at 7 p.m. in Room 143 with Norman Giradot, professor of religion at Lehigh.

Starting in the lobby, audience members will be greeted by a Felliniesque set of circus characters, including a caveman pondering a lap top computer, Cleopatra applying make-up, a gorilla playing cards with a ballerina, and Indian monks humming through the hallways, all before even entering the auditorium. In the hall, audience members will be immersed in a fully-staged circus parade, an Indian dance troupe, jazz musicians, triple-choir Baroque repertoire resounding from the balconies, spirituals, Tibetan chant techniques, and a newly commissioned 30-foot puppet of Vishnu that rises on stage amidst smoke and flames and much more.

The repertoire includes a new work for percussion and choir by Robert Guzzon ‘06, and features a revival of Steven Sametz’s and Arati Shah Yuckich’s The Demon King for 200 singers, Indian musicians and dancers, and a newly commissioned giant puppet by local puppetmaster Doug Roysdon of Mock Turtle Marionettes. Featured in The Demon King will be the Kalavant Indian orchestral ensemble and the Nrithyanjali Institute of Dance troupe under choreographer Srimati Ramya Ramnarayan. They will also take part in the Dravidian Dithyramb by Victor Paranjoti. Local black historian and soprano Donna Parris will be reading original poetry and singing and narrating three spirituals with the Choral Arts: Keep Your Lamps! arranged by Andre Thomas, and new arrangement of Calvary by Sametz will premier in this concert with tenor Derek Wilson, and the favorite Ezekiel Saw De Wheel by William L. Dawson. Pokpok Alimpako by Francisco F. Feliciano and Salve Regina/To the Mothers of Brazil will be staged with children from the Northampton School District and feature student jazz artists.

Collaborating with Lehigh Choral Arts on this unique program will be Ramya Ramnarayan and her classical Indian troupe, Nrithyanjali Institute of Dance. The school was founded in 1990 to provide opportunities for aspiring students to learn Bharathanatyam, and to increase awareness of this art form in the United States. To accomplish this mission, Nrithyanjali offers ongoing classes for students of different age groups in North Brunswick, New Jersey and Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Celebrating 130 years of choral arts

The choral tradition at Lehigh University dates back to 1875 when undergraduates formed a Mandolin and Singing Club. Since that time, there has been an unbroken growth of singing at Lehigh. Dr. Steven Sametz, celebrating 25 years at Lehigh, is the fifth director of choral activities in Lehigh's century of choral singing, having joined the faculty in 1979.

The Lehigh University Choir today is an active force in campus life. The 50 students of mixed voices, drawn from all majors at the university, audition at the beginning of the academic year. During the year, they give three major concerts on campus and tour internationally. The choir frequently performs with orchestra in such works as Bach's Magnificat, Christ Lag in Todesbanden, and Die Johannespassion, Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, Mozart's Mass in C Minor, and Handel's Messiah. They have appeared with the internationally renowned ensemble Chanticleer in NewYork and at Lehigh in performances of Monteverdi's Vespro della beata Vergine (1610). Choir performs new music regularly, including many works written especially for them by Sametz, Paul Salerni, Robert Moran, and Bradley Ellingboe. They have been heard five times in recent years over National Public Radio. Recent tours include Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Berlin; Florida; California; the Virgin Islands; Germany; Austria; France; and a recent five-city tour of Asia.

The Lehigh University Choral Union, celebrating its twenty-year anniversary, is composed of students, faculty, staff, and Lehigh Valley community members. Performing three times a year with internationally known soloists and full symphony orchestra, the 200 singers of the Choral Union bring major works of the choral-orchestral repertoire to a broad audience. Recent repertoire includes Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Mahler's Second Symphony, and the Brahms Requiem.

Celebrating 25 years of Steven Sametz

Steven Sametz, Ronald J. Ulrich Professor of Music, has earned increasing renown in recent years as both composer and conductor. He is the Director of Choral Activities at Lehigh and also serves as artistic director of the elite a cappella ensemble, The Princeton Singers. Recent guest conducting appearances include the Taipei Philharmonic Foundation, the Berkshire Choral Festival, the New York Chamber Symphony, and the Netherlands Radio Choir. Sametz’s compositions have been heard throughout the world at the Tanglewood, Ravinia, Schleswig-Holstein, Santa Fe, and Salzburg music festivals. His in time of appears on the recent Grammy award-winning CD by Chanticleer, “Colors of Love,” and his works may be heard on six other Chanticleer CDs, as well as Lehigh University Choir's “Live from Taipei,” Lehigh University Choral Arts “Christmas at Lehigh,” The Princeton Singers’ “Reincarnations,” and “Christmas with The Princeton Singers.”

Tickets are available for $18 for the Friday and Saturday, Oct. 29 and 30, 8 p.m., performances; All students and children: $5. Discounts are available. For reservations, please call Zoellner Ticket Services at 610-758-2787 (7LU-ARTS) or order tickets online

To help celebrate the upcoming 130th anniversary of Choral Arts at Lehigh and in memoriam of Professor Bob Cutler, we asked our glee club alumni to share some of their experiences. Here's what they wrote:

Richard C. TenEyck ‘49
I was first in the Glee Club in 1943-44, under "Pop" Shields. It was fun—more an extension of my high school glee club experience. We did one or two local concerts. But the real experience came in 1946 when Bill Schempf arrived and kicked things into high gear with new music, trips to other locations and more visibility. We also made a 78 RPM recording—first in Lehigh's history! The really big deals were the two music festivals put on in 1948 and 1949 with Ralph Schwarz producing/directing. The glee club, as we were still known, was a very big part of those two productions and Bill Schempf was a superb leader and all around good guy.

Caroline Graf Reich ‘81
I never sang seriously in high school. I played the French horn seriously and just dabbled in an a cappella group. But my father (Lehigh '56) had been one of Boss Cutler's boys and he pretty much begged me to try out for choir, which in that year was the final year of split between women's and men's choirs. I remember suffering from an allergy attack at choir camp in the Pocono’s, a weird overnight stay at a Penn State sorority house for a concert with Penn State's men's choir, and Boss—he was amazing. Then came this bouncing young genius, Dr. Steven Sametz. He had us galloping around the room doing strange rhythmic exercises, and he was demanding and bold and completely challenging in every way. I loved choir practice and hated it on a rotating basis, but the music was always wonderful. To this day, I hear echoes of concerts in Packer Chapel—of the music and joy and passion that Dr. Sametz pulled from us in some magical way. To have been touched by two such legacies (Boss and Dr. Sametz) in one four-year span was truly a gift, one of many gifts Lehigh has given to me and my family.

Dr. Brenda Smith-Booth ‘74
Back in the seventies, I don't think there was much research on the correlation between choral singing and the immune system, stress levels, etc. Perhaps this is something we intuitively knew was good for us. I joined the women's chorus right after I came to Lehigh as a transfer student from another local college. Boss Cutler invited the women's chorus and the men's glee club to his house for an artistic dinner and tea. What a switch from UC dining! A gracious man who will be warmly remembered...

Posted on Tuesday, October 12, 2004

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