400 Singers to Perform at Hartwick’s Gospel Choral Festival

October 29, 2009

The annual Hartwick College Choral Festival is set for Saturday, November 7, 2009, and it will bring together 400 singers and lovers of gospel music. The festival is directed by Dr. Jirka Kratochvíl, Chair of the Music Department and Director of Choirs. The performance will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Lambros Arena, Binder Physical Education Center on the Hartwick College campus. Admission is $10 per person, or $20 for a family of two or more.

"This year's choral festival is just blown out of proportion," Kratochvíl said. "The only place on campus that can accommodate us is Lambros Arena. I never imagined that there would be such an interest in the festival."

The festival choir consists of the Hartwick College Choir, 250 high school students from 13 area high schools, four college choirs, four community choirs, and many interested individuals who will join forces for the one-day festival under the direction of Dr. Raymond Wise, who will share the stage with Dr. Tony Leach from Penn State University and Kratochvíl.

Wise will lead the singers in rehearsal and teach all the music that will be performed that evening. Wise is one of the most prolific and sought-after composers, arrangers, pianists, directors, and singers in the world of today's gospel music. He collaborated with the Hartwick College Choral Festival in Prague in summer 2008, and again at Hartwick College in fall 2008. This is his second visit at Hartwick.

"Raymond has an electrifying personality. After his first appearance at Hartwick last fall, my students asked me to bring him back, and that is what we are doing," Kratochvil said. "When I sent the invitation out to the local high school choral directors, they responded enthusiastically and many are coming with their entire choruses. This is very exciting."

Wise was a child prodigy, starting his musical career at the age of 3 when he was first introduced to gospel music by his family singing group "The Wise Singers." He learned to play the piano, sing, and arrange music from an early age. He later earned his doctorate in music education from Ohio State University with the dissertation topic "Defining African American Gospel Music by Tracing its Historical and Musical Development from 1900 to 2000." Since his graduation, Wise became one of America's biggest promoters of gospel music, both nationally and abroad.

For the performance at Hartwick all singers will learn about seven gospel pieces by rote, which is very much in gospel tradition. Singers will receive their word sheet at 9 a.m. in the morning, and will be ready to perform a concert by 5:30.

"The process itself is fascinating. Raymond's ability to teach music is off the charts," Kratochvíl said. "Not only does Wise teach his singers very quickly, but he demonstrates all voice parts in their respective ranges. He demonstrates comfortably in bass as well as in soprano range."

In addition to the festival choir numbering nearly 400 singers, the first half of the program will be opened by the Essence of Joy, a gospel choir from Penn State University, under the direction of Leach, who also is a uniquely talented conductor, director, performer, and teacher at the School of Music at Penn State. The Essence of Joy is an acclaimed ensemble specializing in performance of sacred and secular music of the African American tradition.

For additional information, contact the Hartwick College Department of Music at 607-431-4800 or email

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Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,480 students, located in Oneonta, NY in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive Liberal Arts in Practice curriculum merges traditional liberal arts study, personalized teaching, and experiential learning approaches to emphasize Connecting the Classroom to the World. Add to that a wide range of off-campus internships, collaborative research, study-abroad opportunities, and a unique January Term, and Hartwick prepares students for the world ahead. Strong financial aid and scholarship programs keep a Hartwick education affordable.

Contact: Christopher Lott
Phone: 607-431-4030