The Concert Choir, Bethel’s premiere choral ensemble, represents the college through its intensive and vigorous concert schedule. This schedule includes campus performances, concerts in local churches and its annual multi-state tour. Every four years, the choir travels internationally. The Concert Choir is open only by audition.
Sounds of the choir
The choir performs a range of literature, singing pieces in different languages and from various time periods. Samples pieces:
- Laudetur Jesus Christus — Jicí Teml
- Haec dies — William Byrd (1540–1623)
- Christus est natus — Damijan Mocnik
- Lord Have Mercy — James Bixel
- Sistah Mary — arr. Rollo Dilworth
- Gloria — Randol Alan Bass
The study of voice at Bethel College is a dynamic and engaging learning experience. Dr. Soyoun Chun, a graduate of the Boston Conservatory and the University of Kansas, coordinates a program that actively shapes and nurtures students in the vocal experience. Singers perform annual recitals and serve as soloists in orchestral and choral performances.
Bethel music and theater departments stage a fully orchestrated musical theater or complete opera work each year. Recent ones include Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods and the first regional production of The Light in the Piazza. Productions like these provide gifted singers the opportunity to engage the vocal craft in a dynamic environment that supports and encourages their continued development.
Bethel College singers are encouraged to participate in the annual National Association of the Teachers of Singing (NATS) voice competition. Bethel’s studio singers are have done exceptionally well in this regional competition. In 2010, four Bethel singers were invited to sing the semi-final round in the classical and musical theater categories, with senior Joshua Powell taking first place in the senior classical competition. In 2011, six singers advanced to the semi-final round and freshman Mycah Westhoff, in her very first time at NATS, won first place in both Freshman Women’s Classical and Music Theater (Underclass) divisions.
Concert Choir History
The Bethel College Concert Choir has been the core of the music department since Walter Hohmann founded the ensemble in 1932 as the Bethel College A Cappella Choir. Though oratorio choruses, glee clubs and other music organizations had been active since the 1890s, Hohmann’s A Cappella Choir was distinct from its predecessors. The choir traveled out-of-state to perform and generally sang unaccompanied sacred repertoire from memory. The choir’s first extended concert tour was a six-week tour through the western United States and Canada in the summer of 1935.
Renamed the Mennonite Singers in the 1950s, the choir toured Europe for the first time in the summer of 1952 and again in 1955 and 1958, traveling by boat each time. During this decade, recordings of the Mennonite Singers were broadcast on a weekly radio program out of Wichita.
James Bixel succeeded Hohmann in 1958–59, Gordon Corwin in 1959–60, and Walter Jost in fall 1960. The choir continued as a mixed touring ensemble of 40–60 members, though Bixel changed the name from the Mennonite Singers to the Bethel College Choir. Marles Preheim joined the Bethel College music faculty in the fall of 1977 and alternated leadership of the College Choir with Jost nearly every year until Jost’s retirement in 1992. Preheim changed the name of the Bethel College Choir to the Bethel College Concert Choir in the early 1980s. William Eash succeeded Preheim as director in 1999. As it has for generations, the Bethel College Concert Choir fosters a deep sense of connectedness among singers and audiences through excellent performances of choral music.
Today the Bethel College Concert Choir represents the college through its extensive and vigorous concert schedule, which includes campus performances, concerts in local venues and its annual multi-state tour. Keeping with the tradition established in 1978, the choir tours internationally and has sung concerts in Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Bosnia, France, Belgium, Sweden and Norway and has been featured on television in Bosnia and Poland.
In 2010, the Concert Choir received an Emmy for their soundtrack on the movie documentary, Through the Desert Goes Our Journey. In addition, the Bethel College Concert Choir has been featured in performances at the Kansas Music Educators annual convention and the choir serves as guest performers with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. The choir’s most recent collaboration included a 2010 performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2
Resurrection with WSO music director and Bethel College graduate Daniel Hege. They are on the schedule to sing Carmina Burana with the WSO in November 2012.
As a result of its choral excellence, the choir has accepted invitations to sing in the Berliner Dome, Stockholm Cathedral, St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, Cincinnati, the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, and New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
Each spring, the Concert Choir joins with all collegiate singers, members of the Newton Community Chorus and the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra in the performance of choral masterworks.