Choir concludes season with symphony concert

The John Brown University Cathedral Choir will close the year on a high note.

In their last performance this spring, the Cathedral Choir will lend their voices to “Masterworks III,” the closing of a concert series at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, Ark.

They will join the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, the Symphony Chorale, Symphony Singers and the Bentonville High School Chamber Choir on April 14 at 7:30 p.m.

The ensembles will showcase a repertoire of songs that “explore the theme of love,” according to the Walton Arts Center website.

The program includes Gustav Mahler’s Adagietto, a love song from a husband to his wife, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a plea for mankind to love one another.

The Cathedral Choir will collaborate in the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, commonly known as the Ode to Joy.

Symphony Music Director and New York conductor Paul Haas contacted Paul Smith, head of the department of music, in spring 2011 to invite the choir to the concert series.

With Smith on sabbatical, interim director Jake Funk conducted rehearsals of the song intermittently since last fall. The choir has dedicated all their time to it since the end of their spring break tour.

Funk, who has conducted orchestra numbers before, said it was nerve-wracking to have limited time to polish the piece, but said he was excited to sit back and see the results on Saturday.

“It was hard to communicate someone else’s vision,” Funk said, noting that the choir will have its first rehearsal with Haas and the orchestra Thursday night. “But I believe the quality of our sound is one of the best in the area, we will contribute tremendously,” he said.

Administrative assistant Jan Lauderdale said the last time the Cathedral Choir performed with this orchestra was about 10 years ago, when Smith was the orchestra’s choral conductor.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students to perform as a part of a professional group,” Lauderdale said. “It also helps to spread the word about the tradition of musical excellence at JBU.”

Junior Sean Roycraft, who sings Tenor I, said this performance was a chance to achieve excellence with a challenging piece.

“I’m looking forward to singing with other choirs and an orchestra. I enjoy being a part of something bigger than myself,” Roycraft said.

Haas, who will conduct all of the ensembles, said the inspiration for this concert came from his experience living in Northwest Arkansas.

“There’s a paradigm shift here from the ‘me’ culture that reigns in most areas of this country to the ‘we’ culture,” Haas said. “[The concert] also deals with the same paradigm shift, from the microcosmic love in Mahler’s Adagietto to the universal love Beethoven imparts in his great Ninth Symphony,” he added on a blog entry.

Tickets for the event are still available at the Walton Arts Center website, via email at, or by calling the box office at 479-443-5600. Student discounts are available.