On Monday, Oct. 29, the concert choirs from Crookston High School and East Grand Forks Senior High carried on a tradition that's been going strong for more than half a century by participating in the annual Fall Choral Festival. CHS hosted the 53rd annual event, which rotates between the two sites each year.
Andre' Heywood, adjunct instructor at Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minn., was this year's guest conductor. He is a specialist in working with young male voices, currently in his sixth season as artistic director of the St. John's Boys' Choir.
Heywood spent the afternoon with more than 100 choral students, working on three songs. The festival culminated in an evening concert in which each school's choir performed separately and then the combined Festival Choir demonstrated the skills they had acquired in that short time, at Heywood's direction.
Choir directors Garfield Reichert from Crookston's Central High School, Bryant Ulseth from Lincoln High School in Thief River Falls and Don Danielson from East Grand Forks Senior High had informally chatted about getting their choir students performing earlier in the year, rather than waiting until the holidays or later. Hence, the Fall Choral Festival was born 53 years ago.
Thinking it would be good for the students to experience variety by listening to other choirs perform and also sing with different groups of students under the direction of someone other than their regular director, they came up with the choral festival. A guest conductor was recruited each year to work with the choirs, which gathered as one big group, on a few numbers during the day. Later on, the choirs put on a public concert, with each performing individually before coming together for the numbers they'd practiced for only a couple of hours earlier that day.
They decided to rotate locations each year, squeezing some 400-500 students onto stages built to accommodate much fewer. Warren High School joined the festival in 1962 and continued until 1993. TRF left a year earlier. Although Crookston and EGF have remained part of the festival each year, other area high school choirs have participated from time to time, including Ada-Borup, Grand Forks Central and Red River, Glyndon/Dilworth/Felton, Fertile/Beltrami and Win-E-Mac.
About Andre' Heywood
Born in Trinidad, Andre' Heywood grew up and studied in Canada, earning undergraduate degrees in both biochemistry and music education. He then earned a master of music degree in choral conducting from the Don Wright Faculty of Music of the University of Western Ontario. During his tenure at UWO, he was the recipient of numerous awards for academic achievement, vocal performance, conducting and teaching. He was also honored on the national stage for his writing by the Canadian Music Educators' Association and for his research with a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Page 2 of 2 - Heywood is a specialist in working with young male voices. He is currently in his fifth season as artistic director of the St. John's Boys' Choir. He also served as assistant conductor of the Amabile Boys' Choir for two years after singing with the choir for over a decade. He is an adjunct instructor at Saint John's University, where he directs two choirs and serves as a faculty resident. He is also director of liturgical music at Saint John's Preparatory School and conductor of the Saint John's Abbey Schola.
He is a sought-after performer of liturgical music, art song, gospel, and musical theater. Andre' is a member of the VoiceCare Network, and is the Boychoir Repertoire and Standards Chair for the North Central Division of the American Choral Directors' Association. In 2011 he was recognized by the ACDA of Minnesota with the VocalEssence Creative Programming Award for his work with The St. John's Boys' Choir.
About the directors
Shelly Bares is currently in her 14th year at EGF, where she is musical director of the varsity and concert choirs, two other ensembles and the school musical. She is a member of several music organizations and is active as a clinician/adjudicator for area festivals and contests. Bares is a former member of 17 years with the Grand Forks Master Chorale and plays flute and piccolo with the Grand Forks City Band.
Belinda Fjeld is in her 34th year with the Crookston School District and her 12th as director of the CHS Concert Choir. She directs the junior high, concert and pop choirs, and teaches kindergarten and first grade music at Washington Elementary. She also belongs to several music organizations and serves as organist at her church.