The Tennessee Tech University Chorale will perform a 40-minute oratorio, and four other pieces, with two other university choir groups next month. The concert will be in front of hundreds of other singers and choral directors from across the South.
The performance of “Belshazzar’s Feast,” the Old Testament story of an ancient Babylonian king, will take place at the regional convention of the American Choral Directors Association.
“Hands down, it is the most challenging piece I’ve ever handed the Chorale,” said Craig Zamer, TTU voice professor and the ensemble’s director. “When it comes to choral orchestral works, there is almost no other bigger piece.”
Though it is not uncommon for oratorios, vocal pieces that tell a story, to be longer than half an hour, Chorale has never performed such a long piece in concert. The work has been translated into other languages, but their performance will be in English.
TTU’s premier choral group will sing with groups from the University of North Florida and Georgia State University and be accompanied by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Together, the three groups will perform several other works composed or arranged by British musicians, including Handel’s “Zadok the Priest.” Guest artist and conductor of the London Symphony Chorus Simon Halsey will lead them.
“There will be choral directors from all 11 states who are coming down to find and hear new repertoires,” Zamer said. “For many, the whole purpose of a convention is to be rejuvenated by learning new things and hearing outstanding performances by other choirs.”
Their concert is the finale of the three-day Jacksonville, Fla., conference.
Nearly 20 choral groups were invited to perform for ACDA. Groups from around the South sent audition recordings for review to a professional panel.
This will be the first time in recent years that the group has been invited to perform at a professional conference. Last year, Chorale toured Italy and performed at St. Peter’s Basilica and the group previously performed in schools in and around Washington, D.C., and throughout the state of Florida.
“It’s hard to top St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, but at St. Peter’s we were basically performing for strangers and it was the venue itself that made it impressive,” Zamer said. “The fact that this group is performing at the ACDA, for choral musicians, the only higher place that a choir can perform is at the national convention.”