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Feature

Dale Warland

Dale Warland will receive an honorary doctorate from the University at the annual Collage Concert on October 23.

Choral icon Dale Warland returns to School of Music

By Christopher James

Published on October 22, 2004

Dale Warland has seen a lot of changes. The acclaimed choral conductor is best known as artistic director of his namesake chorus, the Dale Warland Singers. He founded the group in 1972 and fashioned it into a groundbreaking musical force with a national and international reputation. But in 2003, after 32 years of success, Warland announced that the Singers would fold at the end of the season. The group gave its last performance in May 2004.

"I'm not stopping conducting, but I am stopping the Dale Warland Singers," Warland said in a recent interview. "I want to combine guest conducting with teaching and composing. There has come a point in my life when I just want to get rid of the worry [of running an organization] every day and be a more free spirit."

This year, Warland returns to the University of Minnesota School of Music, where he earned his master's degree (1960) in music theory and composition, to teach choral conducting courses.

"I've seen not only what's gone on here locally, but what's gone on around the country by conductors and composers who've come out of the [School of Music] program," said Warland.

Teaching is nothing new to Warland, who was professor of music and director of choral activities at Macalester College in St. Paul for 19 years. He also held teaching positions at other American colleges and universities and has been a visiting professor at many institutions. But it is as a conductor of choral music--particularly new choral music--that Warland is best known. He says that the public's taste for new music has changed significantly over the course of his career. "In the beginning," he said, "audiences stayed away when they knew we were doing new music. But as we continued to do new music, the public became increasingly interested. Audiences learned to trust us."

Warland to be honored at Collage Concert

The University will recognize Dale Warland's achievements when it awards him an honorary doctorate at the opening of the School of Music's annual Collage Concert on Saturday, October 23, at 7:30 p.m. at Ted Mann Concert Hall.

An annual event, the Homecoming Collage Concert features more than 500 student and faculty performers and several School of Music ensembles, including University Opera Theatre, Jazz Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Band, Percussion Ensemble, Concert Choir, and many more. The program will also feature a piece from Noel Zahler, composer and newly appointed director of the School of Music. The concert is free and open to the public.

Warland has many special memories of his career with the Singers, but a few stand out. He remembers a 1987 performance at the national conference of the American Choral Directors Association in San Antonio. "We were asked to sing as a substitute for the Moscow Chamber Choir," he recalled. "At the last minute they could not appear. Overnight, we were on the map. Suddenly we were known all over the world."

Warland also counts his work with acclaimed Minnesota composers, including Libby Larsen, Carol Barnett, Steven Paulus, and Dominick Argento, as among his most cherished memories. "Working with them has been so enriching," he said.

Returning to the University of Minnesota brings up other memories for Warland. His education at the School of Music has been important in his professional life, he said. "I received a vision of possibilities there that inspired me. My professors became lifelong colleagues. Somebody like Argento was not only a great teacher but later on became a colleague and friend. It's priceless. My time there was very special."

According to Warland, the School of Music's contributions to musical life have a nationwide reach. "I've seen not only what's gone on here locally, but what's gone on around the country by conductors and composers who've come out of the program," he said. He looks forward to future collaborations between the School of Music and "the outstanding professional conductors and ensembles that are here in the community."

From an original article in Tutti, fall 2004--the magazine of the University of Minnesota School of Music.