“Joyful. Exciting. Amazing. A taste of heaven.” These are just some of the words used to describe the WELS National Choral Festival, which celebrates its 50th anniversary Nov. 10-12. More than 475 students from 22 area Lutheran high schools and preparatory schools will gather to sing their praises to the Lord in La Crosse, Wis.—the place where it all began.
Dave Adickes, a teacher at Luther High School, Onalaska, Wis., invited eight WELS prep and high schools to sing in the first festival in 1967. Nearly 100 students gathered to “celebrate God’s gift of music” and get a “sneak peek of heaven” as well as gain exposure to a wide variety of directors and techniques, according to Adickes. From the beginning, Friday night’s concert was a secular concert performed by the individual choirs. Saturday was a day of rehearsal and fun, culminating with Sunday’s mass sacred concert. The location of Choral Festival changed as various WELS high schools hosted the event.
As Choral Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary, Luther High School will again serve as host, this time under the direction of Dave Adickes’ son, Paul, a former Choral Festival attendee, director, and clinician.
This year’s festival will include music from the past five decades, an almost 300-voice alumni choir, a 52-piece orchestra, and commissioned works by WELS teachers Sarah Siegler and Dale Witte—including the final piece, an arrangement of “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage,” which also serves as this year’s theme. The image of the Mississippi River Bridge—an iconic feature in La Crosse—adorns the poster, symbolizing how “Choral Festival 2017 will bridge the music of the past, present, and future with the timeless heritage and hope that we have in the living and enduring Word of God,” says Paul.
Paul continues, “Choral Festival has endured for so many reasons beyond its musical value. . . . The friendships that are created, the bonds of faith that are reinforced, and the words of faith proclaimed in song resonate in the hearts of our students long after the concerts. Choral Festival gives them an experience that is a lifelong blessing.”
Choral Festival events will be streamed live. The pops concert is at 7 p.m., Nov. 10. The sacred concert is at 2 p.m., Nov. 12. Go to welsfinearts.org for more information. Check out more interviews with past and present Choral Festival directors and participants in a Forward in Christ extra.
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