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Local residents part of Wallace State's concert choir tour

By Staff
Staff Reports, Hartselle Enquirer
Each spring, the Wallace State choral program demonstrates the fruits of a year's labor to audiences at tour destinations. This years' spring tour visited Holy Cross Episcopal Church on Sullivan's Island, S.C., St. Michael's Church in nearby Charleston, and Brunswick Community College near Wilmington, N.C.
"The trip went very well. We had three performances in three days plus two days of travel," said Mike Sparks, director of the Wallace State choirs.
The Concert Choir sang selections from their classical repertoire for the morning worship service at Holy Cross Episcopal, including "Gloria" from Mozart's Twelfth Mass, "Quia fecit mihi magna" from Bach's Magnificat, and "This is My Body" by Maury Davis. They later gave an afternoon concert at historic St. Michael's Church in nearby Charleston.
This was the second time the Concert Choir has performed at St. Michael's.
Their first performance came in 1994 at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival and was recorded by South Carolina Public Radio. That year Sparks played a recital at St. Michael's on an organ that dates to 1768 England.
"The students were impressed by St. Michael' s, which is the oldest church building in Charleston," Sparks said. Lee Kohlenberg, the church's music director, described its history and pointed out the pew where George
Washington and Robert E. Lee sat when they attended the church, Washington in 1791 and Lee seventy years later. In the church's cemetery, two signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried.
Following the concerts in the Charleston area, both the Singers and Concert
Choir headlined an evening's events celebrating Brunswick Community College's twenty-fifth anniversary. There they performed such standards as "All That Jazz" by John Kander and "It Had To Be You" by Isham Jones.
"All our concerts were warmly received," said Sparks. "Our students felt their performance at Brunswick was one of our best shows." This was Wallace State's second visit to BCC.
The Wallace State choral program is now in its 29th year. The Concert Choir is the college's premier vocal choir. It performs a traditional program of works from the Renaissance to the present day. In addition to sacred and secular masterworks, the Concert Choir includes pieces from the Sacred Harp tradition as well as spirituals and gospel choruses in its program.
The Wallace State Singers were the first musical ensemble established at Wallace State. Composed of select members of the Concert Choir, the ensemble sings a variety of works from the popular repertoire, most of which are choreographed, as well as madrigals and vocal jazz.
Both groups make touring an important part of the learning experience each year. The Concert Choir has toured widely from New York to New Mexico and has performed in Europe on three occasions. Last years' tour featured performances in Wilmington, N.C. and Colonial Williamsburg, Va. where the choir was featured in the Candlelight Concert Series at historic Bruton Parish Church. The ensemble has performed at festivals across the United States and in Europe.
"Students benefit from touring on many levels," said Sparks. "There is educational value in the destination, they benefit from the experience of performing, and it provides a goal to work toward throughout the year." As an added bonus, the group has the opportunity to promote the college and community wherever it goes, he said.
Sparks has been a Wallace State faculty member since 1976. In addition to his work at Wallace State, he is the organist and choirmaster at The Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Birmingham. He is also an active clinician and organ consultant serving churches throughout the southeast, including St. Michael's.
The Wallace State choirs are accompanied by Deborah Chalkley, an adjunct instructor and piano teacher at Wallace State, and Raymond Davis, who plays bass for the Singers as well as singing with the Concert Choir. Davis is also the Minister of Music for Center Hill Baptist Church in Hanceville. Chalkley maintains an independent studio and is the pianist for First
Baptist Church in Cullman.
Following their tour, the Wallace State Concert Choir and Singers performed
a homecoming concert, their final concert of the spring semester, this week.
Members of the group will also be performing at the Wallace State commencement ceremonies on Thursday.
For more information about the Wallace State choral program, call Sparks at
256/352-8153 or visit www.wallacestate.edu.

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