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Choral students head to Lithuania

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Members of the Cal State East Bay Chamber Singers are slated to perform in Lithuania Oct. 18 through 24. The group, above, traveled to Mexico two years ago. (Photo: Buddy James)

  • August 25, 2009

The 14-member California State University, East Bay Chamber Singers, plus conductor Buddy James, associate professor of music, will perform in Vilnius, Lithuania, Oct. 18 through 24.

As the second part of a cultural exchange between CSUEB and the Chorus Pro Musica of Lithuania, appearances will include a solo performance by the East Bay performers and a joint concert in celebration of the European choir’s fifth anniversary.

“One of the benefits of performing great music is to be put in touch with the culture of another group of people,” said James, who became acquainted with the Musica director at a 2005 conference that led to the exchange. “Actually experiencing the culture puts the music in context.”

James conducted the Lithuanian chorus in a concert of American music in Vilnius in 2007, while their conductor worked with the East Bay Singers in December 2007 in a concert of Eastern European music. In November, the entire Musica choir came to Cal State East Bay to perform “Mozart's Requiem” with the East Bay Singers and the CSUEB Symphony Orchestra.

This time, the East Bay Chamber Singers will serenade the Europeans with  jazz standards including “Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” “All the Things You Are” and “Moon River,” and American folk hymns and spirituals such as “Amazing Grace” and “Let Me Fly.” The CSUEB group will team with their hosts on “Mass in G Major” by Schubert.

James selected the East Bay Singers for the trip because they are a cohesive unit that had already worked together for a year, has an extensive repertoire, and is prepared to give concerts. Needing one additional male voice, James added graduate student Ryan Rey, a Hayward native who lives in Dublin, because he has a fine voice and had experience on a similar trip to Mexico two years ago.

“As a graduate student, I no longer am required to perform for my major, but due to Dr. James’ enthusiasm, I want to perform,” Rey said. Based on past experience with this group, he said he looks forward to picking up on subtleties from the Lithuanian conductor.

“There’s so much to learn from musicians of this caliber,” said fellow traveler Gabriel Liboiron-Cohen, a junior from Oakland. “I’m especially interested in the male (voices) and the ease of their singing range and technique. The Lithuanians are known for their choral activities; this is where deep choral music comes from.”

Beyond the educational benefits, Catherine Buttler, a senior from Hayward, sees this, her second international trip with the chorus, as one of the perks of a CSUEB music education.

Other participants, their class standing and hometown, are: Laura Munana Carreon, senior, Brentwood; Rodrigo Cortes, senior,  Sacramento, Tristram Duncan, senior,  Fairfield; Trisha Fitch, senior, San Ramon; Alba Gonzalez, junior, Guanajuato; Nicholas Lyon-Wright, junior, Walnut Creek; Dina Marawala, sophomore, Sacramento; Piper Robinson, senior, Piedmont; Kira Sullivan, junior, Pleasanton; Sabrina Serna Vasquez, senior, San Jose; and David Zelenka, senior, Livermore. All are music majors.

The East Bay Chamber Singers will preview their work at a benefit concert at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17 at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 166 West Harder Road, Hayward. Suggested donation will be $10. For information, contact the Music Department, 510-885-3167.


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