BEMIDJI-Choral music fans will have two opportunities to hear some of Bemidji's finest collegiate vocalists this week as Bemidji State University's school year nears its end.
The BSU Chamber Singers will perform at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 14, at First Lutheran Church. The Damenstimmen women's chorus and Musikanten men's ensemble will take the stage at the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex recital hall for a 7:30 p.m. concert on Tuesday, April 16.
"The importance of choral music as far as the advancement of humanity is just so important right now," said Dwight Jilek, the university's director of choral activities. "We have such great community support for our concerts here at Bemidji State. I would highly recommend for our community to come and check this out and see the work that the students are doing."
Jilek conducts the Chamber Singers and Musikanten. Patricia Mason conducts Damenstimmen.
First up is the Chamber Singers, an auditioned group of 15 vocalists who also are part of the university's main Bemidji Choir. Their concert today is titled "Hear Me When I Call" and features music from Bach and Charpentier, with guest artist Eric Olson accompanying on violin.
"This concert is really for all lovers of music of a variety of styles," Jilek said. "It's also going to be a very quick moving concert. All of the music revolves around this idea of longing, or calling out or asking for help."
The concert concludes with Bach's "Jesu meine Freude" also known as Motet No. 3 in E minor.
"This is really the only collegiate early music ensemble that exists in the state, and arguably in the region," Jilek said. "There isn't another collegiate ensemble that focuses specifically on early music, so that would be Renaissance music, and Baroque music. The reason you have a small group do it is because that's how they would have performed it back in the 1500s and 1600s. So it's harder to do it with a big choir."
The concert at First Lutheran is free, but attendees will be asked for a suggested donation of $10 to help cover costs of instrumentalists.
Tuesday's free concert at Bangsberg features mostly singers who are not music majors. Damenstimmen (a German term for women's voices) consists of about 16 vocalists. The group meets three times a week and performs music from all different styles and time periods.
"It's a look back in time," Mason said of Tuesday's concert. "We are singing pieces that run through slavery and Civil War and up to looking forward. It's a sweet, old-fashioned concert."
Musikanten, the 20-student men's chorus, refers to a band of street musicians. The program was started by two students back in the early 2000s, and Jilek has kept that tradition alive by having a student assistant conductor. They meet once a week.
"This concert is one of the most loved concerts of our community and student body," Jilek said, "because of the type of repertoire that women's a men's choruses typically sing. It really caters to a lively and varied experience for our listeners."
He added that the year-end concert serves as a release for student singers who are preparing for final exams and, in some cases, graduation.
"To be able to pull themselves away from the daily grind and sing, it's scientifically proven that it makes us healthier," Jilek said. "It connects us in ways to our fellow singers that just simply doesn't happen in other areas. In many ways we align ourselves with athletics, because that shared experience and teamwork brings us together and literally makes us better people, better citizens."