Blake a cappella choir chamber orchestra mmea convention

Last spring, the Upper School a cappella choir and chamber orchestra collaborated on “Five Hebrew Love Songs,” a challenging five-movement piece by American composer Eric Whitacre, which the ensembles performed at each other’s concerts. The experience came on the heels of other joint ventures including two music ensemble retreats and a Chicago tour, all of which inspired Choral Director Natalia Romero Arbeláez and Instrumental Music Director Brian Lukkasson to pursue an opportunity to showcase the ensembles’ musical partnership on a larger stage. 

The Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) Midwinter Convention is the state’s largest gathering of music educators and being selected to perform at the annual event is the highest honor a school music group can achieve. Romero Arbeláez and Lukkasson submitted an application, sharing recordings of the choir and orchestra performing individually and together. They also provided a description of what their concert would look like if selected: a student-led performance exploring themes of growth, journey and transformation. In August, they received the news their proposal had been accepted.

“We have such a special group of students at Blake: they are hard-working, curious, funny and supportive of each other as musicians and humans,” says Romero Arbeláez. “They go beyond the notes and rhythms to critically examine the context, background and musical challenges in every piece of music they study. We’re both excited to stand with our students and share the music we get to make every day with the Blake community, our colleagues and beyond.”

For their MMEA concert, the ensembles will perform two movements of “Five Hebrew Love Songs.” The choir is also excited to share  “Chante Waste Hoksila,” a Lakota lullaby written by Licinthum-Blackhorse, a member of the Lakȟóta of South Dakota. The chamber orchestra will perform a consortium premiere of “Monarch Migration” by Mexican composer Nubia Jaime-Donjuan, “Serenade” by Swedish composer Dag Wirén and “Mourão,” a dance by César Guerra Peixe of Brazil. 

“We were intentional about creating an experience for our students where the lines of ensembles are blurred and the focus is on the community that is made through music,” Lukkasson says. “What’s also exciting about this program is that it’s not just a way to share our students’ performances, but it allows us to model an innovative way to work collaboratively with peers and colleagues and to truly create this community through sharing music.” 

The Blake A Cappella and Chamber Orchestra concert is free and open to the public on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 8:45am at the Minneapolis Convention Center. For more information, please visit the MMEA website