University Singers perform at First Baptist Church

The University Singers have performed at the White House this past winter.
The MU School of Music's University Singers have performed nationally and abroad in places such as England and Vienna, Austria. The 51-student ensemble is led by professor Paul Crabb. Courtesy of the School of Music

Founded in 1945, The University Singers have grown into a nationally and internationally recognized choir.

The ensemble is composed of 51 carefully selected MU students, both undergraduate and graduate students.

Hana Katsenes is the alto-one section leader and a first-year graduate student working toward a degree in Choral Conducting. Katsenes said she is a proud member of the University Singers.

“Its reputation precedes it,” Katsenes said. “I cannot imagine not doing it. We are held to a very high standard and everyone works towards the same goal and everyone wants to be there.”

Professor Paul Crabb has conducted the group since 2003. Crabb received his Ph.D. from Florida State University and has travelled with his choirs all over the world. He received the Educator of the Year Award from Truman State University in 1997. In 1998, the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching awarded him the Professor of the Year Award for the state of Missouri as well.

“That is exactly what he is,” Katsenes said. “A wonderful educator. He knows what we are capable of. He does not sugarcoat, but he says things in such a way so no feelings are hurt. He knows just what to say to fix something. He does things in just the right way to create the desired effect. When we do a good job or we have a good concert, he doesn’t even have to say anything, he just gives us that look and that little smile and we know."

Crabb said he likes to connect with students and grows musically along with them.

“As one of my colleagues once said, having a chance to work on the best music of the past five centuries with young, intelligent minds, 'What's not to like about that?'" Crabb said.

After Crabb became the fourth director of the University Singers, the group travelled around Central Europe in 2006 visiting the cities of Prague, Brno, Vienna and Budapest.

In 2009, as part of a blind audition, the University Singers was one of nine choirs chosen from around the country to perform at the national convention of the National Collegiate Choral Organization at Yale University. In 2010, the University Singers was the only American choir invited to perform at music festivals in Milan and Bologna, Italy. This past fall, the University Singers got the chance to sing at the White House.

The University Signers took center stage at First Baptist Church on Saturday evening, led by Peter Phillips, a world-renowned conductor.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an honor to work with him,” Katsenes said.

Crabb introduced Phillips at the concert, saying, “He has such a passion and belief in the power of music and he has come to share that with us tonight.”

What also made this concert exceptional was the fact that the singers were performing the world premiere of a song written especially for them by Paul Seitz, professor of music theory.

The concert was completely a capella, leaving the only sound in the hall to the singers.

"It gave me goosebumps and almost brought me to tears,” audience member Mary Pierce said.

The University Singers have shared their gifts for decades and will continue to grow and live up to and precede their long-standing reputation.

“I want to share my love of music and the power it has to cross boundaries,” Crabb said. “I want to continue to make University Singers one of the most exciting, polished and respected university choirs in the country.”

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