What is the greatest musical instrument? The human voice, of course. When you put dozens of those voices together under a gifted director, you have a near heavenly experience. Nothing could better describe just such an experience than last weekend.

The 2009 Minnesota Collegiate Choral Festival was held, and choirs were invited to submit blind CDs of their work. From the many entries, the following five choral groups were selected: Minnesota State University-Mankato, Northwestern College, St. John’s University, the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the Chamber Singers from the University of St. Thomas.

These five choral groups worked for three hours with a guest conductor and the composer of a commissioned work for this group. The composer was Eric William Barnum. The guest conductor was Craig Jessop, head of the music department at Utah State University. In addition, each of the five choral groups presented a 20-minute program.

On Friday evening, the guest choirs were feted to a superb banquet and a representative of each choir gave a greeting to the gathering. Josh Bauder ’10 spoke on behalf of St. Thomas. He was energetic, clever and complimentary to Angela Broeker, director of choral activities at St. Thomas, and to his fellow choristers. He was the last of the presenters and brought everyone to the edge of their seats. You could readily see why his colleagues chose him as their representative.

The individual programs that were presented were not in competition. The five choirs had melded into a beautiful sound in the commissioned work, and each group was to show its unique character. But, when all was said and done, St. Thomas stood out. As early as their entrance, when the singers danced in groups to their places to a medieval tune, the audience knew this was a creative group. Their sound, their technique and their enthusiasm pointed to a great relationship to their conductor, to one another and to their audience. As the late sportscaster Howard Cosell might have said, “They came to sing.”

To Angela and the Chamber Singers, a very large bravo, brava, bravi, brave! Or as it is written in “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day:”

Music the greatest good that mortals know,
And all of heaven we have here below.