Famed composer Stroope to conduct three area choirs


Special to The Minot Daily News


The Minot Chamber Chorale will present an evening of choral music at the Ann Nicole Nelson Hall on the campus of Minot State University at 7 p.m. Saturday. The program, a Stroope Celebration, will feature three North Dakota choirs with more than 150 singers accompanied by brass, organ and piano. The concert is free of charge. There will be a free will offering during the performance.

The Chamber Chorale, the Minot State University Concert Choir and the Bismarck-Mandan Civic Chorus will sing a program selected by guest conductor Z. Randall Stroope, a professor of music at Oklahoma State University, and world famous composer and conductor. He has worked with choirs all over the U.S. and the world.

“Randall Stroope is a very gifted composer and arranger, particularly of choral music,” said Robert Demke, conductor of the Minot Chamber Chorale. “He combines voices and instruments to bring the most emotion and passion out of music. More than most composers I think his strength is bringing out the feel in the music.”

The program will include “Homeland,” one of Stroope’s best pieces, which was performed at the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding and, at the request of her sons, her funeral. Other pieces by Stroope on the program are “Winter,” based on a poem by Kahlil Gibran, and a trio of songs based on biblical and religious themes “Hodie (This Day),” “Lamentations of Jeremiah” and “Dies Irae (Day of Wrath).” Other pieces in the concert will be “O Clap Your Hands,” by Ralph Vaughan William, “Sing Me to Heaven,” by Daniel Gawthrop, and “Hymn to the Eternal Flame,” by Stephen Paulus.

“Stroope always picks a nice balanced program,” Demke said. “It is largely his music but he has included a number of other composers. He picks out the music that he feels will fit the style and mood of that concert. We will have a beautiful blend of music.”

Demke said the audience should listen for the wide range of emotions Stroope creates with his music and how he crafts the music to mold those emotions. The experience should be a memorable one, he added.

“He does it with instrumentation, the brass and organ, and other times he has simple vocal lines that give us a whole range of dynamics and feelings,” Demke said. “It is something that only a really gifted composer can do in a three- or five-minute piece. The whole idea is that people remember how music made them feel. They may not remember the name of the piece, but they remember how they felt. Stroope has that in mind every time he composes a piece of music.”

The combined choirs will feature more than 150 singers on the stage, along with a brass ensemble, organ and piano. Each choir will perform two pieces individually and following an interlude by the brass ensemble, will join together in song for the conclusion of the concert.

“His music is really best with a mass choir and brass and a beautiful pipe organ like we have here,” Demke said. “That is a combination that works so well. It is a combination that works well for the participants and the audience. Nelson Hall is the best hall around for such a performance.”

Stroope will be doing a vocal clinic with each of the choirs prior to the concert and will be working with some area high school choirs as well.

“When we bring someone of this magnitude in, we want to share the opportunity,” Demke said. “We want to share that opportunity with people who love chorale music as much as we do. That’s why we do it. We do it because we love to sing. We love what chorale music can do for us and for the people we sing for.”