If you have never attended the HBCU Choral Festival at Norfolk State, you have missed a wonderful musical treat! The L. Douglas Wilder Performing Arts Center on Norfolk State University’s campus was the venue for this outstanding concert performed by special talented students. University choirs participating in this Choral Festival represented Elizabeth City State University (Elizabeth City, N. C.), Hampton University (Hampton, Virginia), Howard University (Washington, D. C.), and the host institution – Norfolk State University (Norfolk, Virginia).
Instructor of music at Norfolk State, Gregory Gardner, was the Presenter for the afternoon concert. Terry Butler played a beautiful prelude arranged by Dr. Carl Haywood – “Improvisation on We Shall Overcome.” The Elizabeth City State Concert Choir under the direction of Walter R. Swan were first on the program. They sang, in Latin, “LUX AURUMQUE” – “Light, warm, and heavy, pure like gold. They sing to the newborn babe.” Also included in their performance was “Overture” (from Romeo and Juliet); “Rivers to the South;” and “Ezekiel Saw De Wheel.”
Part II of this great musical extravaganza showcased the talent of Hampton University’s Concert Choir. Their repertoire consisted of “Thanks Be To God” (from Elijah); “The Lords’ Prayer,” “The Morning Trumpet,” “Shenandoah,” and “Rock-A-My Soul.” Omar J. Dickenson conducted the choir which was accompanied by Collin A. Richardson. The Howard University Choir, directed by Eric Poole, selected to share their melodious voices through the songs “The Word Was God,” “UBI CARITAS” sung in Latin “Where charity and love are, God is there;” Duerme Negrito,” “Sleep, sleep little Black one, your mama’s in the field. She’s working hard for her sweet little Black one” featuring soprano soloist Paige Maddison. They ended their part with “Great God Almighty.”
Following intermission, Norfolk State’s Concert Choir conducted by Carl Haywood and accompanied by Terry Butler took the stage. This large sea of voices sang “O Be Joyful,” in Latin, “O Sacrum Convivium” – meaning “O Sacred Banquet! In which Christ is received, the memory of His passion is renewed, the mind filled with grace, and a pledge of glory to us is given. Alleluia.” Following that song, with Bass-Baritone soloist, Cavon Mills, the choir sang “Go Not Far From Me, O God,” “This Little Light of Mine featuring Gerell Traynum, and “I Opened My Mouth to the Lord.”
This afternoon of delightful entertainment provided by these four outstanding HBCU Concert Choirs was very professionally done with members of the audience awarding the choirs standing ovations throughout the different performances. YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT YOU WERE AT CARNEIGE HALL!!! The finale with all four choirs, on stage, was extraordinarily superb. They sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” arranged by Roland Hayes and conducted by the four university choir directors brought chills and tears to those present.
Please, Please look forward to attending this magnificent choral festival, next year, and filling L. Douglas Wilder Performing Arts Center to capacity. We must support our young people who are doing great things.