UWF Singers, PCC Ensemble combine for winter concert

By Sydney O’Gwynn

Staff Writer

UWF Singers

Despite the stormy weather, the University of West Florida’s Singers and Chamber Choir didn’t disappoint with the concert “Praises!” on Monday, Feb. 15, in the Music Hall in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

Three different choirs performed: both the Singers and the more advanced Chamber Choir, formally called the Madrigals, directed by Peter Steenblik; and Pensacola Christian College’s Chamber Ensemble, directed by Cleusia Goncalves. This was the first time the groups have performed together.

“It was definitely a unique concert,” senior voice major Rebekah Pyle said. “We hadn’t done anything like that before; it was fun.”

All three choirs had a chance to perform individually, but the last song, “Saints Bound for Heaven,” saw the Singers and PCC’s Chamber Ensemble performing together. Between the two choirs there were approximately 100 singers on stage.

“It was fantastic,” junior piano major Nyasha Brice said. “I haven’t been on a stage with that many singers in a long time.”

Steenblik said there has been tremendous growth in the choir, doubling since he started. He also praised them on the execution of their opening song, “Lux Arumque” by Eric Whitacre, which he described as a “difficult” piece.

“They’ve grown so much,” Steenblik said. “To have done that piece after only five weeks of rehearsal is absolutely remarkable. I’m very proud of what they’re doing.”

Pyle is the Singers’ president, and said that, despite the lack of seniors, these individual students have come together to form a choir.

“Everybody is passionate about putting on a good performance,” Pyle said. “It’s a fun group to be a part of.”

Brice said she sees something special in this group of singers.

“In this semester in Singers there is a lot of drive to want to be better,” Brice said. “We have a group that’s willing to work for it.”

Steenblik got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The University of Utah. He performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for four years and taught high school music for 10 years in Salt Lake City before going back for his doctorate from the University of North Texas. This is his first year directing the choirs, and he is already making his mark by adding choir officers and section leaders.

“By appointing officers, there’s a sense of buy-in from the students,” Steenblik said. “It’s their choir.”

Brice also said she feels the togetherness brought by the new leadership roles.

“It gives us more accountability over our group,” Brice said. “It’s not his group, it’s our choir. We work together.”

Pyle also said that the new director gives the choir a fresh feeling.

“It was cool because he had all this experience but he was also just out of school,” she said. “So he knows what it’s like to be in school and have all the stresses of school. He is very much on our side.”

In April, the Singers will be collaborating with the Pensacola’s Children Chorus in its spring concert “A Prayer for Peace.” The concert will be at First Baptist Church of Pensacola and will center on the “Chichester Psalms” by Leonard Bernstein. Steenblik said this concert was a “stepping stone” for the spring concert, which he called an “insanely collaborative concert.”

A video of the full “Praises” concert will be available on the UWF Singers website between Feb. 22-March 7. Archives performances may be found here as well.

For more information on the Department of Music, visit the website at uwf.edu/music.