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YouTubing to Carnegie Hall

January  29, 2014

Nine students from the Wennerberg Men's Chorus recently made their Carnegie Hall debut. Not only did they "practice, practice, practice," they had a bit of help from YouTube.

When Howard Eckdahl '08, artist-in-residence and director of the Wennerberg Men's Chorus, posted a recording of Michael McGlynn's Dúlamán to YouTube, he had no idea that it would lead to a Carnegie Hall debut for men from the chorus.

"I posted the video to YouTube because I thought it was as strong or stronger than any of the other YouTube recordings I found of the same piece, and because it would provide a way to show a larger audience what the Wennerberg Men's Chorus was all about," said Eckdahl. After watching the recording on YouTube, McGlynn commented, "Fantastic- well done guys! I'm delighted with this...."

He wasn't the only person pleased with the recording.Shortly thereafter, Matt Oltman, music director emeritus of Chanticleer-a highly-regarded professional men's chorus-saw the video and reached out to Eckdahl with an invitation to bring Wennerberg to sing at Carnegie Hall with other men's choruses from North America. Oltman now serves as a program developer for Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY), which produces concerts in major venues in New York.

Nine of the 26 men in the chorus flew to New York for five days full of rehearsals and exploring, which was partially underwritten by Augustana's Institute for Leadership and Service, culminating in a performance of Randall Thompson's The Testament of Freedom and newly commissioned setting of The Gettysburg Address by Mark Hayes.

"Even though it was Carnegie Hall, I felt right at home during the performance," said baritone Ethan Halsall '14, a music and computer science major from Galva, Ill. He added "I believe the best part of my experience was witnessing the choirs from around the nation come together as a mass choir to achieve the collectiveness that is represented in the pieces we performed.

"The pinnacle of that collective spirit for Halsall "was a moment in the second movement [of the Thompson] when 200-plus men sang in unison the words 'Our cause is just.'"

A powerful experience on a storied stage.

- Sam Schlouch '10