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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

Leadership and Service

Choral Union—the Puget Sound’s best kept musical secret

By Brent W. Olsen '66

[image] Bill Giddings and Tom Weko
Retired chemistry professor Bill Giddings (left) and fellow tenors Tom Weko and one-time PLU student Tom Henderson (right, rear) sing during dress rehearsal for the Bach Christmas Oratorio at the Rialto Theater in Tacoma.

The Choral Union is probably the Puget Sound area’s best-kept musical secret. Founded in 1984 by Choir of the West di-rector Richard Sparks, the intent was to provide a choral outlet for faculty, staff, students and alumni—as well as to bring singers from all walks of life to the campus. The Choral Union offers the serious music lover a chance to hear some of the most beautiful choral music ever written.

The Choral Union’s specialty is high-caliber master choral works with orchestral accompaniment. The group has fluctuated in size over the years, ranging from about 40 to the present 70 voices. It is part of the PLU music department, but the membership is mostly non-student, drawn from the Tacoma-Olympia-Seattle community. Members pay dues, which help defray the cost of music and other expenses.

For the last five years, the Choral Union has been collaborating with Northwest Sinfonietta. Christophe Chagnard, Sinfonietta director, has made the Choral Union its chorus of choice for performing major choral literature.

PLU music professor Richard Nance has conducted the Choral Union since 1993. Major works performed during that time include Beethoven’s “Mass in C,” Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb,” Bruckner’s “Mass in E Minor,” Handel’s “Messiah,” Mozart’s “Requiem,” Rutter’s “Requiem” and Vivaldi’s “Gloria.” In December, the choir gave three performances of Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” with Northwest Sinfonietta.

The Choral Union performs primarily in Lagerquist Hall of the Mary Baker Russell Music Center on the PLU campus.

In March, the group will travel to San Antonio,Texas, where it will perform for the na-tional convention of the American Choral Directors Association. The Choral Union’s selec-tion came after a rigorous taped audition process in competition against other community choirs at the state, division and national levels. This marks the Choral Union as one of the elite choruses in the country. With more than 6,000 people expected to attend, this convention is the largest gathering of professional choral musicians in the world.

“Being selected to perform is one of the great-est honors that can be bestowed on a choral organization,” Nance said. “It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”


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