By William P. Thompson: PNT Staff Writer
Culture mavens of Santa Fe will turn out this weekend to hear the voices of the University Singers from Eastern New Mexico University. A group made up of most of the vocal music students at ENMU will perform alongside the Santa Fe Symphony Chorus for two performances at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe.
ENMU Choral Activities Director Jason Paulk, in his first year at ENMU after getting his doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, said the singers will perform Puccini’s “Messa di Gloria”, an uplifting work of praise.
“They (the performances) will probably sell out,” Paulk said. “There will be 800 people or more (in the audience) at a minimum. Puccini wrote this piece for performance. It’s definitely not in a liturgical setting.”
ENMU senior soprano Krista Yeast, said the college students have taken to the religious piece.
“It’s overwhelming when you get everybody singing together,” Yeast said. “You feel really good. It’s so pretty.”
Yeast said students will get some sightseeing time in the state capital, but a lot of preparation has gone into getting Puccini’s work down pat, so as to impress the professional singers.
“If you make a big mistake, everyone in the choir will know,” she said. “I like singing stuff like this because it’s different and interesting. It’s not like stuff you hear today.”
Paulk has had his singers rehearsing the Puccini mass since March. Yeast said she’s been practicing an hour a day at home. Paulk said the strong vocal tradition at ENMU is what the Santa Fe Symphony officials were looking for.
“Our tradition tells them we’ve always had strong vocal ensembles,” Paulk said. “We were invited because the tradition here has been strong.”
Paulk said there are good reasons why choral singing is popular as ever on college campuses nationwide.
“There are more professional opportunities in choral singing worldwide than at any other time in history,” Paulk said. “Bands have a bigger profile, but choral singing is an extremely popular thing and research has shown that singing provides good health.”
Yeast said Paulk’s leadership has instilled confidence in the ENMU singers.
“He takes it very seriously,” she said. “He makes sure we know what we are doing. The first day we were just sight reading it (the Puccini mass). Today it sounds a lot better.”
Yeast said choral singing is all about the blending of voices.
“In a choir, you try not to stand out,” she said. “The sopranos combined are supposed to sing like one voice.”