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BOX A short waltz to the Rochester Art Center

By Christina Killion Valdez

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Dancing at a choir concert may seem a bit odd, but during the Choral Art Ensemble’s "Dances of Life" this weekend it will be hard not to.

The centerpiece of the concert, which will be held at the Rochester Art Center, will be 18 short waltzes by Johannes Brahms.

The "Lovesong Waltzes, Op. 52" were not written as concert music, said Artistic Director Michael Culloton, but rather for informal gatherings.

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"When they were first performed, it was in art centers in Vienna where people would gather informally," Culloton said. "Piano players and singers would take to the stage and start performing. Whoever wanted to waltz would just start dancing."

In this 21st Century version of those events, the singers will first perform the songs, then after the concert concludes the chairs will be cleared from the floor and concert goers will be invited to dance.

"We are mirroring, about 150 years later, those events and recapturing the type of performances that were really happening," Culloton said. "These are not concert pieces. They are party pieces."

The concert will also feature "Dances to Life" by Mack Wilberg, which is done in three movements representing the stages of life, and "Village Wedding" by John Tavener, which describes a Greek wedding festival.

Being premiered this concert is "I Often Dance," by Paul Nesheim, a choral conductor and composer living in Moorhead who conducted several of the Choral Arts members and Culloton while at Concordia College. The piece was commissioned by the Choral Arts Ensemble in memory of Nina B. Pederson, sister of alto Leanne Pederson.

Nesheim submitted several texts to the family for consideration.

"They said the piece captures her spirit perfectly," Culloton said. "It’s a really celebratory kind of text."

Ending the concert will be a set of cabaret-style songs, including tunes from the stage and screen and love songs, to be introduced from stage. Yet even then the music won’t be over.

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Following the last pieces, the ensemble will reprise the "Lovesong Waltzes" giving anyone who’d like to a chance to dance.

Even Culloton?

"I think I might," he said. "Goodness knows I’ve been dancing around the choir room for months."

If you go

What: "Dances of Life," presented by Choral Arts Ensemble

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Rochester Art Center, 40 Civic Center Drive S.E.

Tickets: $25 preferred seating, $17 general, $10 for students in general seating. To make reservations, call 252-8427. Includes admission to the Rochester Art Center and the current exhibit, "Experimental Geography."

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