It’s rare to have a group of almost 350 people gathered for the same purpose, and even rarer still to hear 350 voices singing the same song. At the third annual “A Grand Night for Singing,” audience members can gather in Hill Auditorium for such an experience this Sunday.
The event stemmed from recognizing the gap in showcasing choral abilities at the University. The bands on campus had Band-O-Rama, the orchestra had the Halloween Concert, yet no event brought each choir together — then, “A Grand Night for Singing” was born. The event includes groups such as the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs, the Orpheus, Chamber and University Choirs, as well as excerpts from the musical theater and opera program’s current productions.
“It’s both wonderful and terrifying,” said Director of Choral Activities Jerry Blackstone. “There is a great deal to do in a very short amount of time with a whole lot of folks. We have to be very organized and very focused so we can get everything done. People are excited to hear each other.”
School of Music, Theatre & Dance junior Nora Burgard, a vocal performance major, will solo in the Chamber Singers piece, “Festival Te Deum” by Benjamin Britten, conducted by Blackstone.
“I had never really been good at anything in school,” Burgard said of her pre-singing past. She started off in middle school and later went on to study privately.
“Doing something like singing was really exciting to me,” Burgard said. “To be able to share something so fun with other people, and something I was actually good at.”
Burgard performed in “A Grand Night for Singing” her freshman year, and recalled the impact of the event: It was the moment she realized that the University and vocal performance were for her, and that she was in the exact right place to make singing her career.
“Last semester, I had a solo as well at the (University of Michigan) Museum of Art. I was so scared by the end of the solo (that) I had sweat so much my glasses were at the end of my nose,” Burgard said, laughing. “I am thrilled and excited to have a solo at Hill, but I just hope I don’t sweat all over everyone.”
Hill Auditorium is a world-renowned performance venue, and the stage has seen the likes of Bob Marley and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
“It is awesome, awe-inspiring,” Blackstone said, speaking of the legacy of Hill. “It is exciting to walk onto that stage and feel the energy that room always produces and the energy that always happens when there is a good crowd. There is something very special about making music together with your friends and your colleagues in that environment and on that stage — knowing what has gone on before, and knowing what will follow.
“It’s a very special place acoustically, it’s a very special place emotionally and musically. The tradition is remarkable.”
“A Grand Night for Singing” gathers audiences around a University community that comes together one night a year, joined by their love for the art of singing, in any number of capacities.