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Released October 9, 2003

SOUTHERN MISS CHOIRS EMBARK ON WHIRLWIND TOUR

HATTIESBURG - Dr. Gregory Fuller, director of choral activities at The University of Southern Mississippi, has many reasons for embarking on a whirlwind tour of three states in two days with more than 150 students. Mostly, it will be to test the grit of his singers and teachers-to-be.

The Southern Chorale, the university's premiere touring ensemble, and the Concert Choir will divide into five chamber groups of 20 to 35 members each to perform a variety of popular selections at five schools per day Oct. 16 and 17. These schools are mainly in the Gulf Coast regions of Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

"During my interview process for this position several years ago, I got a strong impression from the director of the School of Music and the dean of the college at that time that they wanted more local and regional exposure of our choirs," Fuller said. "The chorale had toured abroad and had recently performed in New York, but the program has never taken on a venture of going into so many high school classrooms in such a short period of time."

Exposure is the key to recruitment success, according to Fuller, not only for the choral program but also for the School of Music in general. For more than 50 years, the school has regularly sent its ensembles, students and faculty to schools and public venues for recruiting and community service purposes.

"Some prospective students have no university preference, but are simply looking for a school that fits their needs," Fuller said. "They are looking for a place where they can be active as a major or nonmajor musician. Southern Miss realizes this aspect of recruitment, and it is vital for us to demonstrate our capabilities and attributes to these students. You never know who you may reach."

A tour of this speed and magnitude takes a lot of commitment, not only for Fuller, but also for his graduate students in training to be choral teachers.

"I couldn't possibly be at each school for each performance during the two-day tour," Fuller said. "As such, this is putting a lot of responsibility not only on my singers, but on my graduate students. I have assigned graduate choral students to lead and coordinator a chamber group.

"During the process, each will learn first-hand about traveling with a group, setting itineraries - and sticking to them - and contacting teachers, all areas they will need to know how to facilitate as future choir directors. I can watch them and guide them to make sure they get it done efficiently."

This tour not only involves visits to high schools, but the Southern Chorale will give two other public performances, one in Laurel Oct. 14 and the other in Gulfport Oct. 19. Then, on Oct. 23, the Southern Chorale and the Concert Choir will give a "home" concert at 7:30 p.m. at Parkway Heights United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg.

The two choirs will perform separate programs and then join for the finale of Arnold Freed's "Gloria." The Southern Chorale will perform works that both challenge and entertain the audience. Two works by the prolific composer Jean Berger, who recently passed away, will open the concert as a tribute to his vast contribution to choral literature. Also featured on the program will be Howard Helvey's "The Silent," Norman Dello Joio's "Come to Me, My Love," and a lesser known gospel piece that is enjoying a mass resurgence in choral programs across the United States, "John the Revelator."

"'The Silent' is a brand new piece by Dello Joio," Fuller explained. "It is an unpublished work, but the composer is a good friend of mine and has agreed to let us perform it on this program. The piece will be published in the spring 2004.

"Handel's 'Gloria' from 'Dixit Dominus' is a very athletic movement that is a tremendously difficult piece to perform. This one-movement work also will open our December concert with the university's Symphony Orchestra in an evening of Baroque choral masterworks, including 'Dixit Dominus' and Handel's oratorio 'Messiah.'"

The Oct. 23 concert is free and open to the public. Early seating is recommended as the sanctuary fills quickly. For more information about the tour or concert, call the choral activities office at (601) 266-4092.

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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