UCO concert dazzles crowd

Phillip Ndowu | Banner | The University Choir and Orchestra perform at the annual Christmas concert held by the Collinsworth School of Music.

The University Choir and Orchestra represents the Shelby and Ferne Collinsworth School of Music by showcasing talented musicians who interpret a wide variety of musical styles. 

UCO’s most recent performance occurred Feb. 24 at Northpoint Evangelical Free Church in Corona, where the group presented 16 musical compositions, including titles such as “Be Still and Know,” “Here in Your Presence” and “All Creatures of our God and King.”

UCO travels throughout Southern California and to different parts of the country each year under the direction of Steven Dahlgren, assistant professor of music, and Ruth Noemy Wheeler, lecturer in the School of Music, sharing their love for God through their passionate music.

Wheeler, co-director of UCO, expressed her devotion to the ensemble.

“Having an orchestra conductor in the group helps. We work separately from the choir one day a week and the other days we are together. I make sure that the orchestra is ready to play for the concerts and recordings with the choir by focusing on intuition, articulation and several techniques,” Wheeler said.

The combination of a choir and an orchestra helps enhance the musicality of the sound of the overall group. 

Wheeler said the biggest challenge the group has as a whole is precision and balance, yet the co-directors still manage to keep them unified.

“The repertoire at Northpoint consisted of contemporary gospel music. Although we had a piece, ‘The Mind of Christ,’ which is a traditional hymn, our concerts aren’t strictly traditional hymns like people are used to. It was more arrangements that are orchestrated for UCO, and the orchestra was also featured in a solo,” Wheeler said.

Kaylee Whitson, junior music education major, has been in UCO for over three years and said she enjoys being a part of UCO because of its family dynamic.

“As a group, we really depend on each individual knowing their own parts, but we also made a change to our system this semester where every Tuesday we do split rehearsals for the orchestra and choir. That gives us a chance to work as a group in a more sectional  setting,” Whitson said.

Whitson said she travels with UCO for concerts at least two times each month. They also do a mini-tour in the fall and a May tour after classes end each spring.

“My favorite song from the concert (on Feb. 24) was ‘The Love of God.’ It’s a song that we have sung since I was a freshman, and it has always been a top favorite of mine since the beginning because of how deep the lyrics are and how meaningful that song is to the congregations,” Whitson said.

Katelynn Azevedo, junior music education major, has been in UCO for two and a half years and said she has learned different styles of music while also growing in her faith to serve others through the use of her violin.

“I love UCO because it is a group that is centered around glorifying God through music. We are able to touch the hearts of the congregation through our music, as well as Scripture,” Azevedo said. “I prepare for performances by practicing specific sections that I am having trouble with. We have a lot of repertoires, so I don’t run through the pieces, only through certain sections.”

Azevedo also explained why she specifically enjoyed the opportunity to perform the concert at Northpoint Evangelical Free Church. 

“This recent concert at Northpoint had the congregation very engaged with our performance because of the wide variety of songs. My favorite ones included ‘That’s Why God,’ ‘Sing the Story’ and ‘Amen,’” Azevedo said.

UCO will continue to perform monthly in various churches this school year  in addition to their upcoming summer tour in May. Their next concert will be March 29 at 5:30 p.m. at Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield.

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