By Taryn Lamb
THATCHER, Ariz.—At Eastern Arizona College, the choirs are the heart of the institution. The history of choir at EAC began 130 years ago when the college was established as the St. Joseph Stake Academy. Archives show that the Academy Choir sang at the first graduation ceremony that spring. Over the decades, talented students have sung at graduations, building dedications, Messiah performances, community events, tours, and . . . hundreds of concerts.
Spring Sing 2018 – Finalé marks another landmark in the history of the EAC Choirs. This is the final Spring Sing for Dr. Bruce Bishop. Concluding his 17th year as EAC choir director, Bishop will retire in May.
Hundreds of alumni have made plans to return to Thatcher for this event. During the Saturday evening performance, a special encore segment combines an alumni choir of over 200 singers with the 125 current cast members. The EAC Alumni Association has been registering these returning vocalists and providing them with copies of the music since last fall. They will meet in a choral rehearsal/reunion on Saturday afternoon to rehearse and stage the three songs to be performed in this show-closing finale!
Dr. Bishop chose music celebrating his tenure at EAC and his 38-year career for Spring Sing2018.
EACompany combines the choreography of his friend, General McArthur Hambrick, in a segment called: Sing! Sing! Sing! Hambrick and Bishop’s musical theater partnership began at TheUniversity of Wyoming more than 25 years ago. They chose five of their favorite collaborations for Sing! Sing! Sing! EACompany then brings 20 unforgettable characters to life in Classic Disney with magical costumes created by Patty Raines.
Under the direction of Chase Moore, EAC associate professor of music, Women’s Chorale sings a fiery Andalusian folk song in Spanish; the hauntingly lovely Dirait-on in French, and concludes with an American gospel spiritual. Moore has programmed music which showcases the talent, facility and passion ofthe EAC Women’s Chorale.
Fourté is the EAC women’s quartet. Fourté performs a Navajo song Desert Lullaby and Bottom of the River. This year’s quartet, directed by Patty Raines, combines stage presence and vocal chemistry which is among the best of EAC quartets.
Men’s Chorus is a 50-voice ensemble which has become an audience favorite in the twelve years since the group was formed. Kyle Martin directs the men in the anthem of American collegiate male choruses, Brothers, Sing On. They will sing a poignant hymn setting of the American Christian anthem, Who Is He in Yonder Stall. The West Wind by Robert Cundick is one of the finest (and most difficult) pieces in the men’s choir literature. Ryan Cluff plays the virtuoso accompaniment in this show stopper.
GuyZ takes the stage with a Billy Joel Classic and One by One, in Zulu, from the Broadway hit, The Lion King. “This is the first time for an eight-man GuyZ group at EAC,” said Bishop. “GuyZ has always been just seven, but the eighth vocalist makes for a noticeably richer sound.”
Bishop began with a list of nearly 80 of his favorite choral pieces from all parts of his career. The 2018 A Cappella Choir and Bishop have carefully chosen seven pieces which represent their songs of the heart:
The Awakening: a nightmare of silence and no music is replaced with a commitment that music will live on!
Os justi: Anton Bruckner’s masterpiece Latin motet. If Bishop had to choose his all-time favorite choral piece. . . this would be it, saying, “You should hear this piece sung in acathedral. A Cappella Choir sang it in the Salt Lake City Cathedral of the Madeleine on their March tour and it was amazing!”
Faire Phyllis: This English madrigal by John Farmer links back to when Bishop was in high school. The choir director invited him to sing in a madrigal group where he discovered the joy of singing these love songs. Additionally, Faire Phyllis is much like the on-going EAC saga in which young men search up and down for their special girl in a “dear hunt” resulting in a plaque on the choir water wall.
Stars: Ryan Cluff directs A Cappella Choir in a mystical experience of scanning the night sky and the vast heavens filled with majestic stars. Tibetan bowls and crystal goblets accompany this new choral classic by Eriks Esenvalds.
Let Everything that hath Breath: When Chase Moore joined the faculty, he joined Valene Bryce to accompany A Cappella Choir in Fall Sing. To highlight the special personal and professional relationship that has grown between Moore and Bishop, Gospel music forms the perfect illustration.
Not While I’m Around: Dr. Bishop (using the music software program Finalé) arranged this Stephen Sondheim ballad from the Broadway musical Sweeney Todd. This piece represents best the love, rapport, bond and commitment which exists between this director and these students.
Balleilakka: Drawn from the Bollywood movie tradition in India, this wonderfully difficult piece has been one of the EAC choirs favorite pieces in the past few years. The text is Tamil and is a tough to learn as it sounds. Balleilakka is worth the effort. . . just listen!
Tickets are $5 per person and full-time EAC students will be admitted free with student ID. Reserved seating is available for the front section by calling ahead to EAC’s Ticket Office at (928) 428-8228.