Singing in Shanghai
A group of 16 Southwestern students, faculty members and alumni is traveling to China this summer on a trip that will include performances at the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and the World Expo 2010.
The group will be part of a choir that also includes representatives from Chorus Austin, the San Gabriel Chorale, the Chancel Choir from the First United Methodist Church in Mineral Wells and the Mineral Wells High School Varsity Mixed Choir.
The choir will be conducted by Kenny Sheppard, professor of music at Southwestern and director of the SU Chorale.
The group’s first performance will be at the Great Wall of China June 9. The following day, the choir will perform at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing. On June 14, the choir will perform at the Oriental Art Center in Shanghai. The finale of their trip will be a June 15 performance at the World Expo 2010, which Shanghai is hosting from May 1-Oct 31.
Sheppard said the trip stems from a 2004 concert the SU Chorale gave at Carnegie Hall. The man who put together that trip for the Chorale went to work for another company called Kingsway International, and asked Sheppard if he wanted to do this trip.
Sheppard went to Shanghai in 2008 to visit the Oriental Art Center, where the group will be giving one of its two performances in Shanghai.
“It’s a magnificent performance space,” Sheppard said. “I’m thrilled to be able to do this.”
The group will perform the same piece in Shanghai that it sang at Carnegie Hall in 2004 – Haydn’s “Mass in a Time of War.” The chorus will be accompanied by a Chinese orchestra.
Local residents will have the opportunity to hear some of the chorus members perform the piece on Saturday, May 29, at 7 p.m. in the Alma Thomas Theater. This performance is part of Georgetown’s 2010 Festival of the Arts.
Sheppard spent his sabbatical last year planning the trip and recruiting the participants. At first, he had trouble recruiting participants because when the economic crisis hit in 2008, no one felt they could afford the trip. The Friends of the Sarofim School of Fine Arts helped out by dedicating their 2009-2010 contribution to support the trip.
Students who are going on the trip are Ben Bracher, Katie De La Vega, Anne Fenley, Dustin Fillmore, Andra Loer, Bonnie Maddox, Brian Miller, Katie Sokolyk and Kailey Watson. De La Vega will be the soprano soloist for the Haydn piece that will be performed in Shanghai.
In addition to Sheppard, faculty members going on the trip include organist David Polley, vocalist Bruce Cain, and Sheppard’s wife, Victoria Star Varner. Cain will be the bass soloist for the Haydn piece.
“I am very excited about singing for the World Expo in Shanghai,” Cain said. “Although I have sung for large opera houses and symphony halls before, I doubt that I have ever sung for an audience as eclectic as one that attends a World Expo. I anticipate the audience will be from around the world and all walks of life.”
Alumni going on the trip are Marie (Henderson) Becker, Barbara Horan and Barbara Mittanck.
Along with the concerts, the trip participants will get to do a variety of sightseeing. In addition to visiting the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and Tian Anmen Square, the group will visit a silk factory and attend a Chinese Acrobat performance.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to sing abroad and be ambassadors for Southwestern and America,” Cain said.