Plattsburgh State’s Concert Choir will take the stage tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Giltz Auditorium in Hawkins Hall for their annual spring Choral Fest titled “Draw the Circle Wide.”
PSUC music professor and choir director Jo Ellen Miano chose the theme based on a song they are performing called “Draw the Circle Wide” by Mark A. Miller.
“I was sensing an unsettled feeling on campus,” Miano said. “There seemed to be so much divisiveness.”
Each spring semester, PSUC’s music department coordinates their Choral Fest with some type of outreach program. This year, organizers invited high school students from Clinton County high schools to an open workshop in order to prepare them for their New York State School Music Association solos.
NYSSMA is a music organization that strives to advance music education in member schools across New York. Their website states that NYSSMA is the largest, most successful National Association for Music Education state unit in the country, and 100,000 students participate annually in spring adjudication festivals held around the state.
“Getting Ready for Your NYSSMA Solo” was held April 28 in the Myers Fine Arts Building.
“There are a lot of really gifted young people [there],” Miano said. “It’s a way for us to get them on campus, see our faces, know that we’re approachable and [consider] coming here.”
The choir’s longest piece is “Cantata #106” written by composer Johann Sebastian Bach — a total of 37 pages sung in German. Five soloists will sing different parts of the Bach piece, along with a student chamber orchestra playing in front of the ensemble.
Baritone and sophomore music major Michael Hudlin is student-conducting a traditional folk song titled “Shenandoah” by Marshall Bartholomew. Hudlin said he loves performing Bach pieces.
“It’s unnecessarily challenging,” Hudlin said. “I really like that challenge. I’m not someone who really likes to just sit back and sing. I want to work.”
Hudlin hopes to attend graduate school for conducting. After giving Hudlin a list of possible pieces last semester, Miano let Hudlin use the Choral Fest as an opportunity to hone his conducting skills as a future music director.
“I sang a different arrangement of this song when I was 14, and I fell in love with it,” Hudlin said, explaining the feeling of longing for home in the song’s meaning. “It was really nice to come [to the choir] and put my take on the song.”
Hudlin said his baritone solo in the Bach piece is taxing but fun to perform.
“I think that is one of the most challenging pieces I’ve ever performed to date,” Hudlin said. “Once I’m finished with that song, I usually need to take some time to recover.”
Music major and theater minor Mariela Haché Canahuate will graduate this spring, making Draw the Circle Wide Choral Fest her last performance at PSUC.
“Draw the Circle Wide [to me] means to be inclusive and let everyone in. We’re all the same even if we’re different,” Haché Canahuate said. “I love that we’re able to use music to transmit that message.”
Haché Canahuate also likes working with Miano in class rehearsals.
“She’s very dedicated, devoted and passionate,” Haché Canahuate said. “It sticks with us; it makes us want to be passionate and have fun, but at the same time, [perform] well.”
As an international student from Trinidad and Tobago, Hudlin has a personal connection to the concert’s theme.
“I don’t expect that we’ll jump leaps and bounds so quickly, but the fact that it has happened is a huge thing,” Hudlin said, confident in the progress toward inclusiveness on campus. “I think that our circle is being drawn in a different areas, but it’s still happening.”
Tickets for tonight’s concert are $9 for the general public, $6 for students, faculty and seniors and $3 for Student Association members. The performance will also be in memoriam to three PSUC faculty members that passed away this year: husband of music lecturer Marilyn Reynolds, Roger Andrews, professor of English and Canadian studies Dr. Bruce Butterfield and Educational Opportunity Program Director Kyla Relaford.
Despite choosing challenging music to rehearse, Miano commends the choir for their “trajectory of growth.”
“They stepped up to the challenge,” Miano said. “They’re hearing the beauty of their own choral sound.”
Email Emma Vallelunga at firstname.lastname@example.org