National Choral Conference: College choir champions convene

PSU event brings some of the nation's finest collegiate choruses to perform in Portland for the first time.


Some of the nation’s finest college choirs perform in Portland’s largest choral event ever. On November 12-14, over 500 college choral singers and 300 college choir conductors will descend on the city for the 10th anniversary conference of the National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO). The conference includes six performances — all open to the public — as well as master classes, interest sessions, and panel discussions that are open to anyone who chooses to register for the entire conference.

Grete-Pedersen. Photo: Ole Kaland.

Grete Pedersen. Photo: Ole Kaland.

More 100 college choirs applied by blind tape audition to perform at this conference. The 10 best groups that were accepted will perform thematic programs 25 minutes in length for normal choirs and 50 minutes for headline choirs. Concertgoers should expect to hear the best of the best from around our country. Most of the choirs will be conducted by their own directors, but some will be conducted by our two headline guest conductors: Simon Carrington, founding member of the King’s Singers and Professor Emeritus from Yale University, and Grete Pedersen, founding conductor of the Norwegian Soloists Choir and world-renowned scholar on the music of Franz Joseph Haydn.

Here’s a walkthrough of the concerts and summary of other events for any Portlanders interested in crashing some or all of our conference.


Choral Concerts

November 12, 10 am, First Congregational Church, 1126 SW Park Avenue.
Southern Mississippi University singers will perform a concert of works by the Estonian composer Tonu Korvitz, and Riverside City College (generally considered one of the two best community college choruses in the country) will give a concert of all Korean choral music.

November 12, 8:30 pm, First Congregational Church.
Azusa Pacific University singers perform a program of all Irish choral music followed by the Cardinal Singers from University of Louisville singing works by Palestrina, Brahms, Penderecki and Holst. The Cardinal Singers have won more International Choral Competitions than any American choir ever has and is tied for second in the world. They have never been to Portland – check them out.

November 13, 2 pm, First Congregational Church.
Singers from Philadelphia’s Temple University perform music by Philadelphia native Vincent Persichetti, University of the Redlands choir sings music by contemporary North American composers Julian Wachner, R. Murray Schafer and Libby Larsen, and University of Southern California choristers sing South American music.

November 13, 7:30 pm, St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1739 NW Couch.
The PSU Chamber Choir sings music of 20th-century Russian composers Rachmaninoff, Shchedrin, Sviridov and Schnittke and 21st century Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds, who is flying to Portland from Latvia for the performance. Pacific Lutheran University’s Choir of the West, led by guest conductor Simon Carrington, present an eclectic program of music by English Renaissance composer John Sheppard, the acclaimed contemporary Scottish composer James MacMillan, Johannes Brahms, and living American composers Daniel Elder and Paul Crabtree.

November 14, 1 pm, First United Methodist Church, 1838 SW Jefferson St.
Our other headline guest conductor, Grete Pedersen, leads Portland State’s Man Choir, Vox Femina, and Orchestra in a performance of Haydn’s masterpiece the Lord Nelson Mass, followed by University of North Texas choir singing music of English Renaissance composer John Taverner, early German Baroque composer Heinrich Schutz, and J.S. Bach, and Oregon State University’s chorus and strings presenting Vivaldi’s Beatus Vir for double chorus and double string orchestra.

November 14, 8 pm, St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1739 NW Couch.
Yale’s Schola Cantorum and JuilliArd415, Julliard’s early-music instrumental ensemble, perform works by contemporary composers Daniel Kellogg and Roderick Williams plus substantial works German Baroque masters Georg Philipp Telemann, and Georg Friedrich Handel. These groups tour Europe far more often than the United States. Neither has been in Portland before. Come and see them!

Simon Carrington conducts a workshop and performance.

Simon Carrington conducts master class and performance.

The conference also offers a variety of non performance sessions, including lectures on topics from new interpretations of Renaissance giant Gabrieli’s double chorus music to Norwegian and Filipino folk music for choir. Two sessions should be of particular interest to Oregonians. On Saturday morning, Simon Carrington will give a conducting master class to conducting graduate students. The guest choir for the master class will be Choro In Schola, a local professional choir directed by PSU Emeritus Professor Bruce Browne that ArtsWatch’s Jana Hanchett covered last year. And on Saturday afternoon, NCCO will present a session of great music by young composers, all performed by Cappella Nova from Lewis & Clark College under the baton of their conductor Katherine FitzGibbon.

Individual concerts range from $15-$25, and a pass for all six concerts is available for $50. Tickets for all concerts are available from the PSU Box Office. Registration for the entire conference is available through NCCO’s website.

Dr. Ethan Sperry is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Portland State University and Artistic Director and Conductor of the Oregon Repertory Singers.

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