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NNSS Apr30Concert Elijah news
Orchestra, Choirs to present "Elijah" Thursday
By David West

NATCHITOCHES – The Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Orchestra and NSU Symphony Choirs will perform Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” Thursday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. in Magale Recital Hall. Tickets are $10. Northwestern State University, BPCC@NSU and Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts students are admitted free with a current student I.D.

Director of Choral Activities Dr. Burt Allen will conduct the combined orchestra and choirs. Dr. Douglas Bakenhus is musical director of the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Orchestra. This is the final concert Allen will conduct as a Northwestern State faculty member. He is retiring at the conclusion of the spring semester after 32 years at NSU.

Featured soloists are sopranos D’Nissa Hester and Terrie Sanders, alto Courtney Wilson, tenor Michael Rorex and bass David Grogan.

"Elijah," the most popular of all Mendelssohn’s compositions, was finished in 1846, and was first performed August 18 of that year, at the Birmingham (England) Festival. The prominent scenes treated in the oratorio are the drought prophecy, the raising of the widow’s son, the rival sacrifices, the appearance of the rain in answer to Elijah’s appeal, Jezebel’s persecution of Elijah, the sojourn in the desert, his return, his disappearance in the fiery chariot and the Finale, which reflects upon the meaning of the sacred narrative.

“This is a magnificent work, one of the most significant oratorios of the 19th century,” said Allen. “This is a challenging work for the students and helps prepare them by familiarizing themselves with a significant artistic work they will encounter again in their lives.”

Allen said parts of the work will be familiar to the audience who have heard parts of “Elijah” in different settings. The orchestra plays an important role in the performance, portraying the forces of nature including fire, storms and raging water.
Grogran is an assistant professor of voice at the University of Texas at Arlington. He has performed extensively throughout the Southwest to critical acclaim.  A recent performance of “Elijah” had critics praising his ability to “move easily from stentorian declamation to lyrical aria.” Another critic said that he “….brought an impressive vocal power to the lead role of Elijah, and his rich emotive gift set the level for the other chief performers.” He has performed as a soloist with many Dallas area arts groups including the Dallas Bach Society, Texas Baroque Ensemble, Orpheus Chamber Singers, Mesquite Civic Chorus, and the Allegro Artists, as well as at several Texas universities. Recent performances include “Elijah” with the New Mexico Symphony and Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with the Arlington Master Chorale.

Hester is a native of Amarillo, Texas. She holds a Bachelor of Music with a concentration in Vocal Performance and Masters of Music with a concentration in Vocal Performance and Choral Conducting from Northwestern State. She has also studied at the
Taos Opera Institute under world renowned soprano Mary Jane Johnson. For the past five years, she has been an adjunct voice and theatre faculty member in the School of Creative and Performing Arts.

Michael Rorex, an associate professor of voice, has been a member of Northwestern State’s faculty since 1995. Rorex teaches studio voice, directs the Opera Theater and the Northwestern State Men’s Chorus. He is a graduate of University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and Indiana University, where he completed a master’s degree in vocal performance. Rorex has sung roles with St. Louis Opera Theater, Indianapolis Opera, Corpus Christi Opera, Chattanooga Opera and Pensacola Opera.

Sanders has been a full time member of the voice faculty at Northwestern State since 1996.  She teaches private voice, German, Italian and French diction for singers, and vocal pedagogy. A two-time recipient of the Donald F. Derby Endowed Professorship, she is program coordinator for the bachelor of music degree in performance and sacred music.  She is an active lecturer for the McClosky Institute of Voice and a certified McClosky voice technician. 

Wilson is a graduating senior from Baton Rouge who will receive a Bachelor of Music degree with a concentration in vocal performance in May 8. This fall, she will begin graduate school at Southern Methodist University in music education. Wilson won first place in Louisiana National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition. She is a member of Phi Mu Fraternity, Purple Jackets and Blue Key Honor Society. Wilson was a member of the 2014 Homecoming Honor Court.