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SMC choir places second

Lucie Gordon | Friday, November 2, 2012

During its first appearance in the national competition, the Saint Mary’s Women’s Choir earned second place in the American Prize in Choral Performance competition in the college and university division in October. The contest recognized the College choir as one of nine finalists for the award.

Conductor Dr. Nancy Menk said her group set a precedent for an all-women’s choir placing near the top at the competition.

“We were the first women’s choir to place in the top three,” Menk said.  “That was an honor.”

Menk is a professor of music, director of choral activities and the Mary Lou Judd Leighton Chair in Music at the College. She also serves as conductor and music director of the South Bend Chamber Singers, which also competed for the American Prize and placed among the top eight finalists in the community division.

“I am proud of both choirs,” she said.

Founded in 2009, the American Prize honors outstanding choirs that submit recordings to be reviewed.  There are six categories: professional chorus, college or university level chorus, community or faith-based chorus, secondary school chorus, youth chorus and children’s chorus. 

The Women’s Choir, currently comprised of approximately 45 students, has performed across the country as well as internationally and recorded four CDs. 

For the competition, the Women’s Choir submitted a CD entitled “Anima mea,” Latin for “My soul.”  The CD includes a number of relatively current, 20th- and 21st-century songs.

Senior Ashley Stopczynski credited much of the group’s success to Menk.

“Dr. Menk ensures that we get a well-rounded choral experience by including upbeat, slower and different styles of music,” said Stopczynski.

Stopczynski said its “Anima mea” CD is a testament to the choir’s talent, an excellent tool for sharing that talent with others.

 “Dr. Menk makes it a point to give a good example of women’s choral music to younger singers,” Stopczynski said. 

Menk and Stopczynski both said being an all-female choir did not give them any kind of edge in this competition.

“A good choir is a good choir,” Menk said.

Stopczynski agreed, but she said the group is still unique.

“I actually don’t think women choirs get enough recognition for the beauty of the sound,” she said. “However, being the only female group to win is an amazing experience. … It’s wonderful to be recognized for the work we put into our music.”