ISU Headlines

Fifth annual Womens Choir Festival set March 20 at Jensen Hall

Posted March 13, 2009

Song will fill the Idaho State University Joseph C. and Cheryl H. Jensen Grand Concert Hall when ISU presents its fifth Women’s Choir Festival on Friday, March 20.

The daylong festival culminates in a 7 p.m. public performance by some 225 choristers in the L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center. General admission is $6, $3 for ISU faculty and staff, and free to ISU students with a valid Bengal card.

The Department of Music will present guest conductor Susan Mann leading choirs from Midvale, Hillcrest, Idaho Falls,Vallivue, Jerome and Madison high schools. Mann will share the baton with festival director Kathleen A. Lane, founder and conductor of the ISU Women’s Choir.

“We’re especially pleased this year to be part of the Women’s History Month calendar, in addition to honoring women composers,” Lane said recently. “As we specialize in music written for women’s voices, and feature women composers, the ISU Women’s Choir is now an approved class for the Women’s Studies Program.”

Since its inception, the festival has also received support from the US Bank Rural Arts Series, Lane added.

“We’re not the only beneficiaries of US Bank’s generosity,” Lane said. “For years, this series has been helping visual and performing artists reach out to children in underserved rural communities.”

 Lane and Mann will lead participating choirs in works by Felix Mendelssohn, Randall Stroope, Mac Huff and Jeanie Donaldson.

Donaldson arranged the traditional Irish air “And Love Is Pleasin’,” published by Kjos Music Press with a special dedication, “Written for the Idaho State University Women’s Choir, Kathleen Lane, director.”

“It’s always a thrill when a composer dedicates a work to your choir,” Lane said. “Of course, I programmed it!”

 In fact, Donaldson is traveling from her Seattle home for a personal appearance at the festival’s evening concert, Lane said. A Harvard graduate and long-time Idaho Falls music teacher and performer,

Donaldson began to concentrate seriously on composition in the late 1990s, studying seven years under Thom Ritter George, formerly of ISU. Her mini-opera “Sacajawea and the Corps of Discovery” was presented in 2005 by the Idaho Falls Symphony.

As host group, the ISU Women’s Choir will present a short program including the songs “Koowu,” by Palestinian-American composer Maryam Khoury, that will feature Barry Hotrum on the dumbek, a Middle Eastern folk drum; and “Dona Nobis Pacem,” by Leopold Mozart, that will feature ISU flute instructor Tiana Grise.

Each guest choir will also be featured in its own selection, Lane said.

“It’s a thrilling opportunity for high school musicians who otherwise might never get a chance to sing in a fabulous hall like the Jensen Grand,” she said.

Currently programming director for the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center,  Mann served 28 years as choral director of Blackfoot High School. She earned recognition as Blackfoot’s 1996 Teacher of the Year and Idaho’s 2000 Music Educator of the Year.  Mann remains in demand as a guest conductor and an adjudicator for solo and ensemble contests.

In addition to leading the ISU Women’s Chorus, Lane serves as the Music Department’s vocal coordinator and as general director of Opera ISU. She appears frequently throughout the region as a mezzo-soprano soloist and choral-vocal clinician.

Festival accompanist Camille Blackburn has spent 17 years as choral director at Hillcrest High School. An established performer and director in Southeast Idaho, she appears as principal keyboard player with the Idaho Falls Symphony. Active as an accompanist and adjudicator throughout the Northwest, Blackburn has served as adjunct professor of voice at Ricks College and ISU, and maintains a busy private vocal studio.