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You can hear them now: Bemidji Choir debuts CD ‘Hear My Voice’

BEMIDJI — Whether their newest CD "Hear My Voice" is used as a teaching or recruitment tool, one thing is certain, the singers who are featured will have a momento from last year's Bemidji Choir concerts to cherish.

The choir's director, P. Bradley Logan, professor of vocal music at Bemidji State University, said he remembers back to his undergraduate years at North Dakota State University when he received a yearly album from concerts.

The singers in Bemidji Choir are not all voice or music majors, and that is standard at most colleges and universities. For example, Logan was a zoology major, hoping to pursue a medical career when he enrolled at NDSU, but he also loved singing. He sang in the choir and the Madigrals and took private voice lessons. After a year or so of science and math, he switched his major to music and has never regretted the choice.

"Only about 50-60 percent of the choir members are music majors," Logan said. "Some students come here expecting to major in music not knowing how much more than just playing an instrument or singing it entails. The curriculum is exacting and intricate and one builds on the knowledge gained in different courses. Some students decide to change their major and minor in music, while others decide that the college experience is not what they expected it to be and drop out."

The music curriculum at BSU is in competition with other colleges, most notably with Concordia College and St. Olaf College in Minnesota and Luther College in Iowa. But Logan's recruiting efforts, along with the scholarship and grant allotments, have paid off and students who might have chosen to go elsewhere are coming to BSU. And the extensive touring and concertizing the choir does during the school year has brought their work to the attention of choir directors and prospective students in Minnesota and eastern North Dakota.

The CD's are produced yearly, and in the beginning, Logan would use a combination of live and studio recordings. Summers would be given up to listening to all of the pieces by the choir during the previous school year with a careful culling until only those songs which best represented their work remained. However, Logan relies less on studio recordings and more on the live performances because he feels that is a certain "spark" is missing during a recording session evident during live performances.

"Sometimes when you are part way through a piece (during a recording session), your brain starts to think that you're doing well and haven't made any mistakes yet," said Logan. "You are less likely to do that during a live performance because you are more into presenting the music to an audience.

"I think that today, listeners accept the fact that most CDs are from live broadcasts, so when people cough we are more likely to accept that."

Logan said live recordings also are less costly to produce, with no renting of studio time and other studio production costs.

Logan sends out CD copies to members of the Minnesota All-State Choir, as well as to high school choral directors in the eastern part of North Dakota every year. Logan claims there isn't a conference he attends where at least five or six choral directors thank him for the CD. They use them in teaching different units to their choirs: blending, choral sound, repertoire, for example. Choral directors often will study CDs from various choirs to compare and contrast styles. The Bemidji Choir has performed at regional and national American Choral Directors Association meetings, as well as many churches and concert halls here and internationally.

Logan is proud his choir members have learned to rely on each other for support and confidence during concerts. Each year, Logan takes his choir on a weekend retreat where they conduct bonding exercises, as well as talk music. They get to know

one another well, feeling comfortable in being an integral part of a whole; each person relies upon the other, knowing teamwork is essential for a well-functioning choir.

"Some of my strongest friends to this day are those I sang with during my undergraduate days," said Logan. "If you get to know the people you are working with, you are much more willing to want to work together and put your ego aside for the good of the group. You watch each other's back and are more willing to trust; trust is what makes one a better choir singer."

Another factor that makes for a better choir is the choice of repertoire, and Logan is noted for his programs, which are primarily chosen from the earliest Renaissance pieces through the Baroque composers such as Thomas Weelkes, Orlando Gibbons and Henry Purcell to modern composers such as Aaron McDermid, who is a Concordia graduate who taught at Jamestown (N.D.) College. "The students really liked singing his De Profundis," Logan said. "And I took the title of the CD from this piece 'Out of the deep, I cry to Thee O Lord, hear my voice.'

"The voice is the first instrument we have. We use our voice to express feelings for why do we sing?

"Sometimes we just get to the point where we can't express ourselves any more so we break out in song. The one thing about vocal singing is that the text gives us more to work with and we have an emotional connection. I don't mean to imply that vocalists are better musicians than instrumentalists, we just have different things to work with."

"Hear My Voice" is on sale now at the music department of BSU on the second floor of Bangsberg Fine and Performing Arts Complex. 14th Street and Birchmont Drive They will also be sold at the Madrigal Dinners for $20 for one and discounted prices for two or more copies.