Soli Deo Gloria celebrates 40 years with concert

By: David Sckolnik Special to The Gazette
May 3, 2013 Updated: May 3, 2013 at 9:35 am
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The number 40 evokes a myriad of biblical allusions. That's fine with the Soli Deo Gloria Choir, which is celebrating four decades of making music Saturday afternoon.

Even though the 81-voice ensemble is unaffiliated with any church or religion, they have a distinct spiritual mission.

'The music we sing is an art piece but it is also very much connected to a religious base, ' said Dr. Thomas O'Hearn, the president of Soli's board of directors who has been a choir member for 27 years. 'It's up-front and center for us. Our intent to raise it to that level and then the performance hopefully transcends the music. '

'Soli Deo Gloria ' literally translates from the Latin as 'Glory to God Alone. ' The uniqueness of the program is evident when contrasted with other community-based choral programs in the region.

'We include a component which very few secular choruses have, ' O'Hearn said. 'Before every rehearsal or performance we have a prayer or an invocation. People take turns doing that. '

As with every concert they perform, the 40th anniversary concert is limited to choral works built upon religious texts and inspiration. The choir's charter also mandates that there be no auditions for perspective singers.

'I know it sounds like a recipe for mediocrity, but we have a great group of singers, ' said Gary De Kler, who has led the group for the past 18 months. Only the ninth conductor in Soli's history, he is also founder and conductor of the Roman Catholic Chamber Choir of Colorado Springs and is Catholic choir director at the Air Force Academy.

'These guys come every Monday night, work for 2 1/2 hours and walk out exhausted, ' adds De Kler. 'It's a privilege to work with people like this. I'm anxious to see where we are in five years. '

The numbers look good for the anniversary concert. Joining the choir are 28 professional instrumentalists gleaned largely from the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and the Air Force Academy. They will figure in the afternoon's two major works: John Rutter's 'Gloria ' and J.S. Bach's Cantata No. 191. The program also includes a selection of spirituals.

Four of its original members will be singing Saturday. When the concert comes to its climax with a performance of Handel's ever-popular 'Hallelujah Chorus, ' four of Soli's past conductors - founder Judy Westcott, Ed Ladouceur, Brad Petersen and Ray Killian - will take turns leading the music. 'It does sound a bit like a potential train wreck, ' De Kler said.

'But I'm encouraged by Ed's suggestion that 'once it gets started, it doesn't matter who's on the podium.' '

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