VoxAura holds debut concert at Grace Cathedral in celebration of Women’s History Month


Tyler Smith

Sopranos Abby Strella, Iris Gaul, Sarah Vanstory and Mary Pritchett sing in the ensemble VoxAura. The group performed Tuesday, March 21 at Grace Cathedral in Topeka.

On Tuesday, March 21, Washburn’s newly-formed soprano-alto ensemble VoxAura commemorated Women’s History Month with a performance titled RISE: Songs of Empowerment.

The concert began with Hildegard von Bingen’s “O Virtus Sapientiae,” followed by “Boundless,” by Katerina Gimon, during which the performers used their voices and bodies to make a variety of sound effects while singing.

“It took us the longest to learn and it was just so much fun,” said Abby Strella, freshman in nursing. “It’s something very different than anyone’s really ever done before or heard before. So I think that was probably my favorite one.”

Elena Hageman, senior in vocal performance, also picked “Boundless” as her favorite.

“I love the new music that is really kind of out there,” said Hageman. “But then when it comes together, it’s also super cool.”

The ensemble then performed “Lineage,” by Andrea Ramsey and Emily Crocker’s arrangement of “Eatnem Vuelie,” which was originally composed for the movie “Frozen.” The concert was also the world premiere performance of “Who Will Roll Away the Stone?” by Kansas-based composer Anna Abernathy.

The ensemble consisted of only 14 members, which Sarah Vanstory, freshman in nursing, felt made a big difference from the larger choral ensemble many of the members also participate in.

“I feel like because we all kind of get along and we know each other and it feels more comfortable that we can be more vulnerable with our voices,” said Vanstory.

The small group also made preparing for the concert challenging. One of those challenges came up in preparation for the song “Still I Rise,” by Rosephanye Powell.

“For “Still I Rise,” there was a 12-part split and we only have 14 of us in the ensemble,” said Hageman. “So that was definitely a challenge. But we pulled it together and it sounded really good.”

Strella agreed that having such a small group made the performance more challenging.

“It’s definitely like a lot more work than being in a big choir because you don’t have as many voices,” said Strella. “So you have to balance and make sure that everyone’s still heard.”

Despite the challenges, the VoxAura members felt good about their performance.

“I think it went really well,” said Vanstory. “It was a hard workload but we really pushed through and I think we came together really well as an overall ensemble.”

The concert program provided full texts and translations, as well as some background for all the pieces performed in the concert, which can be found here.

In conjunction with the concert’s theme of women empowerment, the program also directed attendees to the website of the YWCA of Northeast Kansas, encouraging viewers to donate to help support women in the community.


Edited by Glorianna Noland and Aja Carter