There's a flurry of cultural events taking place this month, and in today's column I focus on two: the soon-to-arrive Concordia Choir; and the popular Rogue Festival, which continues on a busy Sunday.
If you've never had the opportunity to experience the superior acoustics of Fresno's gorgeous Shaghoian Hall on the campus of the Clovis North Educational Center, I can't think of a better way to do it than by listening to the Concordia Choir.
This world-renowned ensemble from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., now touring the Southwest United States, on Thursday returns to the Shaghoian.
And even if you are familiar with the Shaghoian's acoustics, you might discover a new depth and resonance to the hall after listening to 70 powerhouse voices directed by Concordia's acclaimed conductor.
René Clausen, a 26-year veteran of the choir, had read and heard a lot about the Shaghoian before bringing his students to Fresno in 2009 on a whirlwind 48-hour jaunt to California.
It was worth the trip, he says.
"The clear impression that we all had, myself included, is that it's a very fine hall to make choral music in because of the warm and generous acoustics," he says in a phone interview from Phoenix, one of the stops on the choir's tour.
There are two important points to consider when talking about a hall's acoustics, Clausen says. One is the sound the audience hears. The other is the sound the performers hear, giving them the opportunity to listen to intonation, blend and balance.
"It was very well acoustically designed," he says of the hall.
Just what sort of sound does Concordia bring to the Shaghoian?
When I attended the 2009 concert, this is what I wrote:
There are days when you throw a rock into a pond and it's just a rock in a pond.
That's the way I felt when I heard the Concordia Choir from Moorhead, Minn., one of the finest collegiate choirs in the nation, sing the first chord in Latin of Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki's "Totus Totus."
The chord hung in the air: beautiful, rounded, intense. And then it dissipated in an exquisite retreat, rippling into silence, but with the memory of that sound still swirling a little in your skull.
I guess you could say I was impressed.
This time the choir is making Fresno a stop on one of its annual tours, as it has several times in the past. It's been playing to nearly sold-out houses in such cities as Denver, Albuquerque and Flagstaff. The California portion of the tour includes Thousand Oaks, San Luis Obispo and San Francisco.
Besides touring the U.S., every few years the choir heads overseas, with its last big trip to South Korea in 2011.
The program includes a broad range of choral music from the Renaissance to 20th century composers, including works by Bach, Morton Lauridsen, Grieg, Schuman and F. Melius Christiansen. An audience favorite, Clausen says, is a section devoted to 19th Century Romanticism written by composers from Norway, Germany, Italy and France -- with the choir members dressed in period costume.
It's hard work to go on tour, but after 26 years, Clausen says that being surrounded by eager and talented students keeps the experience fresh.
"I keep getting a year older, but they keep staying the same age every year," he says with a laugh.
Have a nice Rogue day
If you're a fan of the Rogue Festival, Fresno's annual "fringe"-style performing arts festival, you probably already have your Sunday mapped out. With more than 60 shows in 14 venues in and around the Tower District over a 10-day period, there are lots of entertaining possibilities. And if you're a Rogue newbie, this might be the perfect day to venture out and try something new.