Western Oregon University Choirs Are Belgium-Bound

Musical notes

Dr. James Reddan does more than ask his Western Oregon University choir students to shoot for the stars.

Reddan, as an assistant music professor and director of choral activities, makes certain every student has the skills and knowledge to confidently reach the destination.

Western Oregon's Concert Choir gathers for a photo.
Western Oregon University’s Concert Choir will compete in the World Choir Games in Belgium.

“I have high expectations for my students, but they are always achievable expectations,” Reddan said. “When I pick challenging pieces for my students, it’s really a compliment because I am saying I believe they can do it.”

Reddan’s confidence in his students and their trust in him are evident as they prepare to compete on an international stage in July. WOU’s three choral ensembles–Concert Choir, Chamber Singers and Western Oregon Voices–have qualified for the World Choir Games in Flanders, Belgium. More than 500 choirs from 73 countries and regions have been invited to the July event. WOU is the only Oregon university participating. 

Reddan said it’s an honor for his students to be invited. “They will get to experience what it is like to perform on an international stage,” he said. “This trip is also a learning opportunity for the students to experience history and travel to cultural landmarks. They will get to sing in churches and a palace, places where music has been performed in for hundreds of years.”

Choir members are excited to travel abroad and test their skills as musicians as well as listen to and meet singers from around the world.

A large group of singers gather for a photo.
Western Oregon University’s Chamber Singers will perform at the World Choir Games in Belgium.

“It’s one thing to sing at your school and share your music in your community,” said freshman Sara Wright said. “It’s another to share your skills in a giant competition. We want to see how good we are.”

Learning their competition songs is the least of students’ worries. Their biggest challenge is raising the money to participate.

Reddan plans to take 40 students to the competition, at a cost of $3,500 per student. The groups have raised $40,000 as of late December, and they are planning several fundraisers in 2020, including Giving Day on March 3. The final deadline is April 15.

Reddan said his students understand the trip is about more than the competition. Instead, Reddan said it’s an educational adventure or experiential learning.

“The experience of competing at the World Choir Games is actually the immersion in the performance in the culture,” he said. “This opportunity is one of the best ways for our students to really experience music in its most authentic form and being able to share their music with people who may not understand the words being sung but understand exactly what they mean by the way in which they communicate it with their audience.”

Choir members gather for a photo on campus.
Western Oregon Voices will compete at the World Choir Games in Belgium.

WOU choral members junior Ethan Keleher, senior Katie Hansen, senior Madeline Weinstein and Wright said being in the university’s choral ensemble is like being part of a family.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to travel with my peers and meet other peers from around the world,” Wright said. “It’s a chance to get to experience things and places we have never been.”

To learn more about the tour, visit Western Oregon University Choirs.

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