The Western Carolina University School of Music will present its annual Fall Choral Concert on Thursday, Oct. 27, a performance that will mark the campus debut of WCU’s new director of choral activities, Michael Lancaster.
The concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in the recital hall of the Coulter Building, will feature performances by three of the university’s choral ensembles.
The University Chorus, Early Music Ensemble and Concert Choir, all directed by Lancaster, will sing a variety of choral compositions and arrangements, including sacred and secular pieces from the Renaissance era, a nocturne by Mozart for chorus and three clarinets, the final chorus from an operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan, arrangements of a gospel song, and an African-American spiritual.
The performance will be the “home concert” for the Concert Choir and Early Music Ensemble, which will travel to Chapel Hill for their annual fall concert tour. The groups will sing at Chapel Hill Bible Church, Carrboro High School, Cresset Christian Academy, Chapel Hill High School and other venues from Saturday, Oct. 22, to Tuesday, Oct. 25.
Lancaster joined the WCU faculty this summer, succeeding longtime choral director Robert Holquist, who stepped down from the position last semester after more than 30 years of full-time teaching and directing.
“Dr. Lancaster brings a wealth of experience to our students from his long and varied experience as a conductor, chorister and soloist with some of the greatest choral conductors and ensembles of our time,” said Will Peebles, director of WCU’s School of Music.
“The transition from Dr. Holquist to Dr. Lancaster is an exciting time for our students because every choral director has his or her own unique perspective on the ideal choral sound. Those students who will have had the opportunity to perform under both directors will be especially enriched by the experience,” Peebles said.
Lancaster also has been appointed director of the Asheville Symphony Chorus, helping prepare the chorus for performances with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra as well as independent concerts.
“I hope to work more closely with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. We have no string program at WCU, so I would like to see our students sing major choral and orchestral works with the ASO,” Lancaster said.
The first such opportunity is a joint venture scheduled for mid-November. The WCU Concert Choir has been invited by Daniel Meyer, music director of the ASO, to join the Asheville Symphony Chorus for two performances of the Resurrection Symphony by Gustav Mahler, Lancaster said.
“This is a tremendously powerful and inspiring work that takes large choral forces,” he said. “The Asheville Symphony Chorus, which numbers about 100 singers, will be joined by the WCU Concert Choir in a symphony generally not performed by colleges and universities.”
Two performances are on tap – at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, in Asheville and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center on campus.
Lancaster came to Cullowhee from of the School of Church Music and Worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where his choirs sang at division conventions of the American Choral Directors Association as well as at the annual conference of the Kentucky Music Educators Association.
He has served on the music faculties at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Mo., and Missouri Southern State College in Joplin, Mo. He also taught high school choral music for six years in Southern California.
Lancaster studied conducting for two summers at the Oregon Bach Festival and has sung in the Festival Chorus of the Oregon Bach Festival many times. In the summer of 1988, he was one of 60 vocalists selected to sing under the direction of Robert Shaw in France in the Robert Shaw Festival Singers. He was asked to return in 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1996.
As a professional soloist or chorister, Lancaster has sung with many organizations, including the Carmel (Calif.) Bach Festival, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Hollywood Bowl Festival Chorus, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the William Hall Chorale, the Long Beach Bach Festival and the Disneyland Dickens Carolers.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Chapman College (Orange, Calif.), a master’s degree in music from California State University Fullerton and a doctorate of music from the University of Southern California.
“This is a very exciting place to teach music right now with a new chancellor whose academic area is music performance and a relatively new Fine and Performing Arts Center,” Lancaster said. “I find the students here very respectful, talented and anxious to learn. I am enjoying teaching here very much.”