Lawrence University Choirs Bid Conductor Rick Bjella Farewell in “Around the World” Concert

APPLETON, WIS. — The Lawrence University Concert Choir, Cantala women’s choir and Viking Chorale present their 11th annual “Around the World” concert Friday, May 29 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The concert is free and open to the public. It also will be webcast on WLFM, beginning with a pre-concert program at 7:30 p.m.

The concert will be the choirs’ final performance under the direction of long-time conductor Richard Bjella, who has directed the Lawrence choir program the past 25 years. Bjella recently announced he is leaving Lawrence at the end of the school year to become the director of choral studies at Texas Tech University.

“Over the years, it has been wonderful to see the substantial growth in the students’ participation and commitment to excellence and caring for each other that has taken place in all areas,” said Bjella, who drew raves from his peers in March for the Concert Choir’s performance at the American Choral Directors’ Association national convention in Oklahoma City. “The ownership of the choir is held by every single member in the ensemble. They all take personal responsibility for their part in making the picture complete and believe not only in their singular contribution but also the power of the whole being far greater than the sum of its parts.

“It has been wonderful to be a part of this picture that I believe has enhanced the lives of so very many in the Lawrence community,” Bjella added. “The saying ‘we is a lot smarter than me’ has been my mantra for many years. Every student, faculty, staff and community member that I have worked with over the last 25 years has helped me grow in some way and I am so appreciative of their collective wisdom of heart, mind, and soul. I hope that I have assisted a few along the way as well.”

The concert will feature music from Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, Italy, the Nordic countries and the Far East, ranging from works by such world-renowned composers as Samuel Barber and Felix Mendelssohn to isolated Celtic/Scottish traditions of mouth music.

Bjella will conduct the concert choir and the Viking chorale, while Phillip Swan will conduct Cantala. Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory, will join the concert choir in the program’s finale with a performance on the didgeridoo.