VICTORIA -- It's a concert that's been thrilling local audiences for 29 years. Sunday's single performance of the annual Cathedral Concert at the Basilica of St. Fidelis was a glorious glimpse into the power of Christmas music, served in the magnificent setting of a much-beloved historic landmark.
Full disclosure: I added my voice to the Smoky Hill Chorale this year and was delighted to look out from the stage and see the audience, the brass ensemble in the balcony and the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows.
In those front and center seats, I shared the excitement of preparing for the big event: the warm-ups, the holding spots for family, and the shooting of selfies.
Always at the helm of the intricately planned event, conductor Terry Crull, Fort Hays State University choral director, worked his magic with the performers.
And it was magic. From the opening moment of silence to the last ringing chord of "Take Home Joy," the choirs, ensembles and soloists performed with elegance and poise.
The Hays High Chamber Singers, guest performers under the direction of Johnny Matlock, gave an expressive, flowing interpretation of "O Magnum Mysterium," then showcased their premier performance of "The Shepherd's Lamb," composed by Dan Forrest and commissioned by the Chamber Singers and the Staley High School Chamber Choir.
Faculty and guest performers Brad Dawson, Aaron Hoffman, Tom Meagher, Jane Hyde, Melvin Sauer Jr., Luke Weaver, Ivalah Allen and Kay Werth shaped the concert with their vibrant performances. Guest ensembles FHSU strings and the FHSU brass choir likewise provided many of the finest moments of the afternoon.
Guest performers, Southeast of Saline Madrigal singers, brought outstanding soloists and haunting harmonies to their selections.
"Cradle Song," arranged by Micahel Ritzel and performed by the FHSU concert choir, was dedicated to Pam McGowne, longtime accompanist for FHSU. The song, tenderly performed by the choir while they stood encircling the sanctuary, was a lovely tribute to McGowne's dedication to FHSU music.
Solos performed by the Fort Hays Singers evidenced the ranging differences in their voices that come together with beautiful harmonic blends. Their performance of "What Child is This," with alumnus Stephanie Demuth on flute was truly an expression of joy.
I'm thankful to have seen the cathedral concert from the front of the Basilica this year.
For others who might feel the call of choral music drawing them to the front of the stage, I highly recommend participating in the group next semester. Rehearsals resume in January, when preparations for the spring concert and Brahms Requiem will get underway.
Dawne Leiker is a frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.