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75 years of A Cappella Choir, 75 years of life on Earth

75 years of A Cappella Choir, 75 years of life on Earth

75 years of A Cappella Choir, 75 years of life on Earth
November 18
10:20 2013

Joshua Knopp / Senior Staff Writer

UNT’s A Cappella Choir is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, but its director has put together a concert that isn’t about them.

The concert “Blessed are they…” will premier Nov. 19 in the Murchison Performing Arts Center and will run again Nov. 26 in St. Monica’s Church in Dallas.

Director and music professor Jerry McCoy said rather than just celebrate the choir’s history, the concert celebrates the last 75 years of world history.

“It’s not just about the choir, it’s about the life that went on during the 75 years of the choir,” he said. “One of the things about being 75 years old is it encompasses 75 years of life on this world.”

McCoy said he designed a performance with pieces commemorating multiple anniversaries. 2013 marks the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the 80th anniversary of Mother Theresa taking her vows and the 100th anniversary of composer Benjamin Britten’s birth. McCoy said the show will have pieces celebrating all four occasions, as well as the choir’s anniversary.

“What the A Cappella Choir does is it sings for what those people stood for, which is making a difference in the world,” he said.

The choir first got together in 1938 when Wilfred Bain was dean of the music school. Bain was held by College Music Symposium as “the most influential music administrator in higher education in the United States within the 20th Century.” He brought UNT’s and Indiana University’s music schools to national prominence and helped to unify music education, which had been split into three branches before.

Today, the A Cappella Choir is the top choir in a hierarchy of seven at UNT and has been all around the world, performing at national conventions and producing several notable alumni, such as Richard Tucker Award-winning opera singer Patricia Racette.

General, Choral and instrumental music senior Kara Kasberg has been on trips as far as South Korea and as near as Dallas with the choir’s alto section.

“Every choir that I have performed in has its pros and cons, but to me, it’s all about the journey,” she said.

The choir also has a reputation for producing top-notch music educators. According to the choir’s website, more than 35 music education deans and department chairs graduated from the choir. Bain earned the moniker “dean of deans” because of how often his students went on to hold the position at other universities.

Shannon Vail isn’t a dean yet, but she does have a year and a half of middle school education under her belt after moving on from the choir in 2010.

“I always loved to sing and always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “The biggest advantage of being in that choir was learning from Dr. Jerry McCoy, one of the most brilliant, sought-after conductors and clinicians in the country. How to evoke emotion from your students, how to tell a story through your singing and how to express it with my conducting gesture are things I will always attribute to him.”

The 75th anniversary show holds special significance to both Kasberg and Vail. For Kasberg, it will be her last performance with the choir. For Vail, the performance takes place with her second wedding anniversary. She met her husband in the A Cappella Choir, though they haven’t decided whether or not they will attend.

The Nov. 19 performance will begin at 8 p.m. and tickets are free for students with a valid ID; $8 for staff, seniors, children and non-UNT students; and $10 for adults. They can be purchased at www.theMAC.com/tickets.

The concert at St. Monica’s in Dallas starts at 7:30 p.m. It is free for children and students and $10 for adults.

This is the fourth university at which McCoy has directed a choir, but he said UNT’s choir is unique in his career.

“This choir is so sensitive to what the text actually has to say,” he said. “They don’t sing to make a pretty sound, they sing to change somebody’s life.”

Feature photo: The UNT A Cappella choir rehearses with the percussion ensemble under the direction of Dr. Jerry McCoy. The choir will commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death with a concert at 8 p.m. on Nov. 19 at the Murchison Performing Arts Center. Photo by Edward Balusek / Staff Photographer 

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