A celebration of choir

They came, they learned, they sang their hearts out and as an added bonus, got to do a little karaoke at the inaugural Fort Dodge Choral Festival at the Middle School Saturday.

For Rayni Bidlman, a junior at Fort Dodge High School, the morning clinic with Dale Warland, a Minneapolis-based choral conductor and composer, was one of the day’s highlights.

“It was very interesting,” she said, “Our choral director is so wise, it’s nice to have another wise input.”

She got a kick out of the karaoke although getting up and singing wasn’t quite her thing.

“I’m more of a bystander,” she said.

Dave Grindberg, who helped organize the event said the singalong was a way for the students to blow off some steam, get to know each other and fill the down time between clinics with Warland.

He said the event is intended as a fun learning experience for the students.

“They bring the music they’re working on at home for Warland to hear,” he said. “He puts a second set of ears on it.”

He stressed that the atmosphere is kept light.

“This is not a competition,” he said. “This is a festival.”

Matt Drees, the vocal music director at Fort Dodge High School, did partake of the opportunity to sing a song during the karaoke session.

“It was fun,” he said.

He also enjoyed the feedback.

“It was very positive,” he said. “It’s a really good experience.”

That went double for his students.

“I think the kids really liked what (Warland) had to say,” he said.

Another aspect of the festival that both the students and staff enjoyed was getting to meet their peers from other schools. Choirs from Bellevue, Neb.; Woodbury, Minn.; and Cedar Falls made the trek.

Warland also took advantage of the day. After giving the clinics, he was able to take a seat in the auditorium and enjoy the performance the choirs put on for the public.

“It’s very energizing and inspiring,” he said, “to see these kids, that got on a bus at 5 a.m. to sing to each other – that’s inspiring.”

Jamila Shing-Hon, a junior at Fort Dodge High School, said she enjoyed the clinic with Warland, the light atmosphere and getting to meet students from other choirs.

“It’s fun that it isn’t a competition,” she said. “We all love choir.”

She said she’s ready for next year, and she too enjoyed the singing.

“The karaoke was a great idea,” she said.

Organizer Grindberg is planning on making the festival an annual event.

“We hope to make this a long and glorious thing,” he said.