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OCU Singers, Faculty Win Raves for ACDA National Convention
Oklahoma City University's choral leaders and University Singers won raves in the March 10 editions of The Oklahoman. In his review of the March 6 premiere of Dominick Argento's "Cenotaph," arts critic Rick Rogers wrote "The rich diversity of the choral repertoire from spirituals and jubilant songs, to a cappella selections and choral/orchestral masterworks, made for a magical evening of music presented by Canterbury Choral Society (Randi Von Ellefson, director) and seven guest vocal ensembles (including OCU?s University Singers, Judith Willoughby, director). The evening included the world premiere of Cenotaph, for chorus and orchestra, by Dominick Argento. Heartfelt thanks all the performers for making this premiere so memorable." More than 150 Oklahoma City University choral students took the stage and worked behind the scenes at the national convention of the American Choral Directors Association at the Civic Center Music Hall. The March 3-7 meeting was attended by more than 7,000 choral directors from the United States and abroad, in addition to choral scholars, composers, and performers. “ACDA chose Oklahoma as the site of its 50th national convention because the organization, the largest of its kind in the world, was founded in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Randi Von Ellefson, OCU’s director of choral activities and president of the National Collegiate Choral Organization. ACDA national headquarters recently relocated to Oklahoma City. In the lead up to the convention, Oklahoma City University hosted two choruses from Oklahoma State University; one from University of Oklahoma; one from Kentucky’s University of Louisville; the OU trombone choir; and the Austin-based Conspirare, nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award with founder and conductor Craig Hella Johnson. Also in attendance is Dr. Ann Howard Jones, Boston University director of choral activities and longtime assistant to conductor Robert Shaw, and several BU singers. Ellefson is the organizer and onsite coordinator for five choruses, including Canterbury Choral Society and OCU’s University Singers, which performed the world premiere of Dominick Argento’s “Cenotaph” and Vaughan Williams’ “Dona Nobis Pacem." In addition, the OCU University Men’s Choir and Ad Astra Women’s Choir sang the music of Welsh composer Karl Jenkins at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, at the Cox Convention Center. Professor Judith Willoughby, OCU’s associate director of choral activities and the Wanda L. Bass Professor of Conducting and Choral Education, is advisor for OCU’s student chapter of ACDA. She said chapter members committed more than 200 service hours as concert monitors, reading session assistants and stagehands. They also shared housing with out-of-town singers and attending sessions and concerts related to choral pedagogy, choral performance and choral literature. “I still remember the transforming power of my first national ACDA convention and am grateful that my students will have the opportunity to experience the artistry of so many choirs from the United States and abroad and learn from world renowned experts about all facets of choral performance, scholarship and pedagogy,” Willoughby said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, at a formative time in their professional development.” On March 6, an artistic remembrance was held at the Oklahoma National Memorial. Friday’s free event featured performances related to peace and reconciliation and showcased OCU theatre students and students from OCU’s Ann Lacy School of Dance, under the leadership of Professor Tonia Campanella; the Canterbury Youth Choruses, with Willoughby as artistic director; and the Young Men’s Chorus of Canterbury Youth Choruses, led by Johnny Warren Mitchell, an OCU graduate choral conducting major. For more information about the choral program at Oklahoma City University, visit