This week, local singers will get the rare chance to hit the stage alongside a Grammy-nominated American gospel choir. The visiting choir, from Morgan State University, will join forces on May 27 with the Al Khubairat Singers for the classical piece Carmina Burana, accompanied by a full orchestra. On May 28, the barbershop group Voices of Harmony and the a cappella jazz ensemble Blue Fever will open for the American choir in a concert at Brighton College.
The Morgan State University Choir will be belting out timeless ballads such as Bridge Over Troubled Water, Over the Rainbow, Let It Be, Killing Me Softly and We Are the World, as well as a selection of American folk songs and gospel classics.
“It’s always difficult to decide what to sing,” says Eric Conway, the choir’s director. “Although we sing all styles, the choir is known for our performances of the Negro spiritual. To hear gospel music performed by trained voices is an experience no one should miss.”
For the past decade, choir members have spent summers touring the world, including Ghana, Brazil, Italy, Russia, China and Jamaica. “We’ve been well received everywhere, but we find the destinations that have never heard our brand of music are much more awestruck by the sound we make,” says Conway.
This is their first trip to the Middle East. “So far we’ve been to Doha and Muscat and have found people to be warm and inviting,” says Conway. “We make sure the students learn about the culture of the places we visit through the food and museums, so we’re looking forward to exploring the culture of Abu Dhabi.”
Sidekicks to the stars
The Al Khubairat Singers have become the choir that big-name musicians call up when they're in town – they've joined The Rolling Stones and Andrea Bocelli on stage, as well as most recently performing Carmina Burana with the UAE Symphony Orchestra.
Since the Morgan State University Choir only arrive in Abu Dhabi on the morning of May 27, the two choirs get only one chance to rehearse together and get it right. “We’re doing it by the skin of our teeth, but it will be fun,” says Jonathan Lyall, the director of Al Khubairat Singers. “It’s a great chance for our choir to see a sharp, energetic American professional choir at work.”
This will be the biggest concert Lyall has participated in: it involves a 35-musician orchestra, 30 Morgan State members, 20 Al Khubairat students and 30 adult singers from Al Khubairat. With 115 people performing Carmina Burana, a piece famous for its electrifying climax, the decibel levels are sure to hit the roof.
It also happens to be Lyall’s last big concert with the Al Khubairat Singers, as the British music teacher, who founded the choir eight years ago, is moving to Singapore in August.
Sharing the stage
Morgan State University Choir’s May 28th concert will be opened by Blue Fever, who are still basking in the glory of winning the title of 2014 Middle East Choir of the Year at the recent Choirfest. Voices of Harmony, which won the Most Dynamic Performance Award in the same competition, will also sing.
Laura Roberts, who sings with both groups, says: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be sharing the stage with Morgan State University Choir. We hope to gain support for future concerts of this calibre for years to come.”
• Morgan State University Choir will perform with the Al Khubairat Singers on May 27 at 7.30pm at the British School Al Khubairat. Tickets are Dh50 for adults and Dh10 for children. Call Jonathan Lyall at 050 523 1275. On May 28, at 8pm, the American choir will perform with Blue Fever and Voices of Harmony at Brighton College. Tickets are Dh40 for adults, Dh20 for children and are available at Spinneys Khalidiya and at the door