A Joyful Noise: West GA Choral Arts Festival

Nick Oakley

Last weekend saw the Azalea Storytelling Festival come through LaGrange, but the season for supporting the arts is not over. This Saturday, March 14, LaGrange College will host the West Georgia Choral Arts Festival in Callaway Auditorium, a unique event for both participants and audience members. Choirs from the West Georgia and East Alabama regions are invited to attend for a full day of beautiful choral music.

The Choral Arts Festival first began in 2016 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Choral Society of West Georgia. It also served to bring together much of the rich choral talent in the West Georgia area; many of these choirs rarely, if ever, have opportunities to perform as a single group such as they do here. The ambitious plans paid off, with nearly three hundred singers attending the first festival, ages ranging from eight to eighty. In 2018, the festival began partnering with the LaGrange College Music Department, and each festival after the first has continued to find outstanding success.

The event is structured to include performances by individual choirs as well as one final concert that brings all of the choirs together into one ensemble, conducted by a guest director.

This year, the guest director is none other than LaGrange’s own Dr. Samuel Miller. This is his first year teaching at the college and his first time participating in the Choral Arts Festival, having ended a successful first semester with the annual Lessons and Carols holiday performance. Given his already solid results, he has high hopes for the LaGrange College Singers, saying “It’s been a good year, and this is just another notch in the belt, or another step in the whole process. Singers has really come a long way this year, and there’s already been a lot of growth, not only on the Singers’ part but on my part, and us getting to know each other, and developing a better rapport. I think this is going to be a really good step. I love what Singers does, and overall I’m very pleased.”  He’s also enthusiastic about the choir events still in store for the semester, such as the Tour Choir’s trip and the performance at graduation.

Dr. Miller has also said that one of his favorite things about the LaGrange College Singers is the inclusivity of non-music majors. The ranks of the choir include not only music majors, but exercise science, psychology, and DCMF majors as well, to name a few.

He had this to say about his expectations for the concert: “Out of our ensemble, I’m expecting an awesome performance, just because we’ve been preparing for a while. I think we’ve got students who want to do well, so I think we will do well. In terms of the bigger performance, I think it’ll just be awesome to have 200 singers on stage. I haven’t conducted that many people in a while, but I’m looking forward to the massive sound that’s going to be put out.”

Students are also looking forward to the festival, ready to put on another noteworthy performance with ease. Melanie Prater in the alto section expects the choir to do really well. “We always do well, so I’m not too concerned. I think it’s going to be especially fun this year with Dr. Miller leading the whole thing.”

Zane Williams echoes the sentiment, saying “It’ll be nice to have him as the conductor since the whole choir is already familiar with his style and direction.”

Meanwhile, Harris Peek from the bass section says he’s most looking forward to singing with every other choir at the end. “It’s a pretty unique experience to sing with that many other people on stage, and I’m looking forward to hearing how the ensemble material sounds when sung by the whole choir,” Peek noted.  

Several other choral groups will be present for the festival, including the local Sons of Lafayette Male Choir and a featured children’s choir. The pianist for the evening will be collaborative pianist Andrew Harry, who will be sitting in along with Dr. Miller for rehearsals and through to the final performance of the festival. Percussion in the concert will be played by students of LaGrange College.

Make sure you don’t miss an unforgettable concert at 4:00 P.M. at the Callaway Auditorium this Saturday.

Nick Oakley is a sophomore Composition/Music Technology major and a member of the Lagrange College Singers. This is his first semester writing for The Hilltop News.

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