Topeka Festival Singers hold classical concert

Andrew Shermoen

On Oct. 3, White Concert Hall was packed for the Topeka Festival Singers’ latest concert, “This and That.”

The whole ensemble kicked off the show by gathering on the sides of the hall, their voices echoing out their chanted rendition of Palestrina’s “Sicut Cervus.” The opening number hauntingly utilized White Concert Hall’s acoustics and set the evening’s calm tone.

The organization originally founded in 1984, the Topeka Festival Singers have received critical acclaim. They have often been referred to as one of the best choirs in the Midwest do to their extensive repertoire and discipline.

Kevin Kellim, director of choral ensembles at Washburn, is also the director of the Festival Singers. He began directing the group in 1987. “This and That” was referred to as a celebration of Kellim’s 30 years affiliated with the group. During his time, the ensemble has traveled around the world to perform. Cities such as London, Paris, Vienna, Venice, and Budapest are just a few of the stamps found on the Singer’s passports, but their permanent residence is here in Topeka. The Singers have also performed with notable artists during their time. Jeff Kready, former member of the Singers, is now a well-known performer on Broadway who at one point was the youngest man to play Jean Valjean in the 2006 revival of “Les Miserables” and also played Monty Navarro in “A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder.” Kready’s wife, Nikki Renee Daniels, another shooting star of the Broadway stage who is currently playing Nabulungi in “The Book of Mormon,” also has performed with the Washburn Singers.

After settling in with “Sicut Cervus,” the Singers took the stage and continued their music. Mozart’s beautiful “Laudate Dominum,” stood out among the beginning of the concert. Jessica Crowder, soprano, took the solo for the piece and her endless range and talent perfectly highlighted the piece’s beautiful operatic tone.

The concert gathered several younger singers from the community to sing with the Washburn Singers. Students from Cornerstone Family, Hayden, Seaman, Shawnee Heights, Silver Lake, Topeka, Topeka West and Washburn Rural high schools performed at the concert on what may have been the best work of the night, based on the audience’s enthusiastic response. Gwyneth Walker’s arrangement of Robert Lowry’s “How Can I Keep from Singing?” The piece was a hit with audience goers.

As dedicated Topekan singers crowded onto the stage of White Concert Hall, they raised their heads high and echoed in beautiful harmony, “Through all the tumult and the strife/I hear the music ringing./It sounds an echo in my soul,/how can I keep from singing?”

The Topeka Festival Singers offer single admission tickets for $5 at every concert, and also offer season tickets. The Festival Singers next concert is entitled “Old Chestnuts, New Fire” and is on Dec. 19 at White Concert Hall.