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The audience at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Spring Choral Concert was bustling in anticipation of the start. There were children running up and down the stairs, people standing in the back of the room and even people taking seats in the walkways.

The concert was held in the Harlan O & Barbara R. Hall Recital Hall on March 29 at 7 p.m. It was the last show conducted by conductor Paul Torkelson, who will be retiring after this year.

There were three sections of performers, including the UNR Concert Choir, the Marce Herz Middle School Advanced Choir and the Nevada Chamber Singers. At the end, all three groups got together to perform a mass chorale finale. 

The three groups garnered more spectators than the Hall Recital Hall could handle. Bustling with people, separate accommodations were made — chairs along the sides, through the middle and in the back for the remaining few. 

Starting with an introductory piece, where they were promptly talked over, about Torkelson’s future retirement and all his past years in choir and at the university.

Four people stand on stage listening to applause from their fans.
Rachel Jackson/Nevada Sagebrush
The conductors of the choir performance introduce themselves to the audience.

Finally, the concert began. The UNR choir did a wonderful job during their performance, regardless of the interruptions around them. Brittney May directed the choir with Randy Smith as the assistant director and Dominique Gonzales as the piano accompanist.

In the first piece, “Locus Iste,” composed by Anton Bruckner, the choir harmonized well and had steady vocals throughout. It was a sad piece that was remarkably well portrayed.

In the second piece, “Song for the Mira” was composed by Allister MacGillivray and arranged by Stuart Calvert, flutist Aliyah Saldarriaga joined in. There were also five people in the choir who performed brief solos during the piece, including Morgan Bowling, Juliana Carmona, Josef Esguerra, Magen Gauthier and Brant Luevano.

The soloists all did an excellent job of each of their parts and kept the audience consumed by the soft melody. However, they particularly shined when they sang together as a choir. 

During the UNR choir’s performance, it was getting packed with people pretty fast. It seems there should be some better ticket regulation with this concert hall in particular. 

The final piece, “MLK,” was originally made by U2 and arranged by Bob Chilcott. It was captivating and helped the fans forget about the rambunctious attitudes of the other audience members. John Hancock was the soloist for this performance and he was splendid. The range his vocals had were absolutely incredible. 

The UNR choir left the stage and the middle school performers came out on the stage, directed by Janet Orton, with accompanist Emily Ho, percussionist and accompanist Jason Weir and violinist Matthew Wilkins.

The little ones started off with the piece “Shule Aroon (Siúil a Rún), a traditional Irish song from the 18th century. It was impressive to see students at such a young age perform so well. 

The second piece was “Say Something” was originally created by Ian Axel and Chad King, members from A Great Big World and arranged by Alan Billingsely. One of the young middle schoolers, Ho takes the stage to accompany the choir with her powerful piano playing skills. 

The last piece was a traditional Zulu song called “Amavolovolo Dowry Song,” which was arranged by Rudolf de Beer. The children finished off their performance strongly with this final beautiful song. 

When the Nevada Chamber Singers took the stage, they radiated with experience and skill. Torkelson, the director, was accompanied by Pat Gardner on the piano and the assistant conductor, Oscar Lloyd. Lloyd was previously a chamber singer and UNR singer who got his first chance at conducting the chamber — an opportunity given to him by Dominique Gonzalez.

As they began their first performance “Thou Motive of the Stars” from III Nocturnes and originally composed by Dan Forrest, it had wonderful harmony and their pitches were just perfect to listen to. Kasper Young was the soloist for this piece and her voice was phenomenal and smooth, matching with the melody wonderfully. 

One male and female choir performers since their hearts out at spring concert.
Rachel Jackson/Nevada Sagebrush
Two choir performers sing their hearts out to the elegant songs at the UNR Spring Choral Concert.

In the second piece, “Lux Aurumque,” originally composed by Eric Whitacre. There was good harmony with quiet fade outs and pauses. Soloist Roni Ellison wasn’t quite as notable in this performance, but still was charming. 

Dominique Gonzales conducted the third song with soloists Katherine May and Xianya Pereira, “Pater Noster,” composed by Alejandro Consolacion.. The chamber dedicated the song to the victims of the current Ukrainian and Russian conflicts. It was loud with emotional vocals from all of the performers combined and the two vocalists were mostly in sync when they sang apart or with one another.

They finished their performance with a tragic piece called “Please Stay,” composed by Jake Runestad and conducted by Dominique Gonzales. Katherine May, the soloist, did a beautiful job of capturing the intense vocals in this song and making the audience feel enveloped in the moment. The performers, one by one stepped off the bleachers they stood on and started saying little quotes about suicide awareness. 

“It’s okay to be a work in progress,” one of the final quotes said, bringing tears to the eyes of everyone watching. The moment where they came together to bring awareness to the value of every human beings’ life was quite enchanting to watch and definitely a moving experience. 

When they finished, the other two choirs came out on the stage and they all sang “The Storm is Passing Over” by Barbara IV. Baker. Since it was Torkelson’s last performance, it was a sentimental moment for all of his students. The song was an uplifting song about moving on and taking a journey home – a great fit for the audience to clap along to and join in for. The performers even ran around the walkways of the stairs to get the audience standing and moving to have an interactive and engaging performance.

In a twist of events, a bunch of graduated students Torkelson used to perform with or teach surprised him to come sing on stage with him one final time. They sing “Walking in Jerusalem” by Bill Monroe as the lights come on and they all embrace one another, just having fun on stage with Torkelson one last time. 

Then, they chanted his name as he exited. It is definitely a moment Torkelson will never forget. So sure, it seems in the end the performances did override the chaos that was happening in the back of the recital hall; however, hopefully it is not an incident that will occur again.

Jaedyn Young can be reached at jaedynyoung@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @jaedyn_young3.

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