Music lovers and individuals who want to experience culture are invited to a free concert.
First Baptist Church of Morganton will host the Lenoir-Rhyne University A Cappella Choir and Brass Ensemble at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15, at 502 W. Union St. in Morganton. This is the first stop of the three-day tour. The event is free and open to the public.
Ryan Luhrs, the current director, has been leading the choir since 2016. Luhrs decided to begin the tour in Morganton because six of the members, Abigail Adams, Edward Bland, Dakota Duncan, Juan Martinez and Serra and Chandler Smith are from Morganton.
“ They’ve been very dedicated to the choir for four years,” Luhrs said. “I’m glad it worked out to perform in their hometown. Choir alumnus Mara Walker is doing fantastic work as the choir director at Freedom High School. The LRU music program has benefited from these talented students.”
Luhrs selected FBC because Edward Bland’s father, the Rev. Dr. Tom Bland, is the senior minister of the church.
Edward Bland is a junior at LRU. His major is in vocal performance as a classical baritone. Not only is he a member of the choir, he is also a member of the College Singers, a group of 12 singers from the A Cappella Choir that perform separately. He has sung his whole life, but didn’t sing in choirs until a senior in high school.
“Being in the choir has been a wonderful experience,” he said. “We are a group of 60-plus. We don’t only sing a cappella, we also sing large choral works, art music and other forms of choral music.”
When the LRU A Cappella was formed in 1935, it was heavily influenced by the St. Olaf Choir alumnus Kenneth Lee, with only unaccompanied music sung, Luhrs said.
“Nowadays, the name A Cappella Choir remains, but the choir performs a greater variety of music, including music accompanied by piano, organ and brass,” he said. “I consider it a great honor to be associated with this tradition and the choir.”
Jeana Neal Borman, staff accompanist and music instructor, will accompany Luhrs, and Christopher Nigrelli, professor of music, will conduct the Brass Ensemble.
The program will feature music of various styles from a variety of time periods. The choir and ensemble will present new hymn arrangements and Appalachian Folk traditional music.
“In choir, I’d say African-American spirituals are the best thing to sing,” Bland said. “There’s not anything more uplifting than a good old-fashioned spiritual. We sing a piece called, ‘At The Round Earth’s Imagin’d Corners,’ which is based on a poem by the popular metaphysical poet, John Donne. It’s my favorite one on our program. Not only is the music superb, but the text is also.”
The choir has traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad on tours, mission trips and worship events.
“We have had the opportunity to travel all up and down the eastern seaboard, into Florida, Georgia and many other states,” Bland said. “That’s just while I’ve been here. We’ll be traveling to Ireland this summer, and I’m incredibly excited for that opportunity.”
Barbara Jolly-Deakle is a News Herald correspondent and a member of the Morganton Writers’ Group. She can be reached at BabbyWrites@CompasCable.net.