By Tim Leeds
Havre will be treated to a performance of centuries-old music by a decades-old professional chorus this weekend.
The Montana Chorale will perform selections from its "Voices of Discovery" recording in a benefit performance for the North Havre Community Food Bank on Saturday.
"I think it's a great idea," singer Ann Cogswell said. "We usually pay our singers, but they said they would commit to the performance without pay."
Cogswell, one of the founding members of the chorus in 1976, said that any money raised over the expense of putting on the show will be donated. Part of the admission price is a nonperishable food item, which will be donated to the food bank. Tickets prices are $5.
This is the fifth season the chorale is performing "Voices of Discovery," which it first performed to help open the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls.
A fund-raising drive by the chorale before the center opened enabled the group to produce a CD of "Voices of Discovery." Most of the songs are from the time of Lewis and Clark's Voyage of Discovery, either brought to America by settlers or written by early American writers. One feature is a poem for mixed voices, "The Journey of Lewis and Clark," written for the chorale by Elizabeth Cain.
The 24-member Montana Chorale was originally founded for an American Bicentennial celebration. Cogswell said its first performance was at the Kennedy Center for the Bicentennial Parade of American Music, with Montana's performance on Aug. 31, the anniversary of its statehood.
After the concert, she said, the manager of the Kennedy Center told the members of the chorale: "I think you need to keep this organization together."
Cogswell said the members come from across Montana and from out of state. There are about 50 members, with different people performing at different times.
It is a professional chamber chorus, Cogswell said, and sings in seven languages, performing Renaissance songs, Classical and folk songs, some Broadway, and more. She said the chorus has a commitment to rural areas, and has performed in Havre several times before.
"We love to come to Havre," she said. "It's just so supportive, we think, of the arts."
The chorale has undergone some changes recently. The original conductor, Kenyard E. Smith, retired three years ago because of a hearing loss. James Jirak, an associate professor of music at Boise State University and director of the BSU Vocal Jazz Ensemble and the BSU Men's Chorus, has taken over leading the Montana Chorale. Jirak has led the 100-member Boise Master Chorale for six years.
His work with the chorale includes a concert in Innsbruck, Austria, last June, recording sessions and the International Chorus Festival in Missoula.
Cogswell said the transition has made performances a little difficult. Another problem is the chorale's lack of a professional manager. The previous manager left the group and management has fallen to the chorale's volunteer board, she said.
The singing group has had an illustrious career since its founding in 1976. Cogswell said the chorale took fourth in a chorale competition in Austria in 1984. The Montana Chorale was the only representative of the United States among the 10 groups invited that year.
The chorale is a member of Chorus America, a national organization that supports and promotes chamber choruses, and has received recognition from it. It is the first Montana organization to receive funding from the National Foundation for the Arts, and receives grants from the Montana Arts Council.
The performance begins in the Havre High School auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Havre Daily News, which is sponsoring the benefit performance, and at the door.