Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meet the Biola University Chorale

The Biola University Chorale

The Biola University Chorale is comprised of 34 voices from various disciplines on campus, with nearly eighty percent being voice majors. Dedicated to excellence in performance and literature, the Chorale offers a varied repertoire from traditional choral works to contemporary genres such as jazz and gospel.

The Chorale tours domestically each year and internationally every four years. In Southern California, the Chorale annually participates in prestigious area festivals, as well as hosts a two-day invitational high school, community and Christian college choral festival every November. Each spring they join forces with the Biola Symphony Orchestra for the performance of a major choral-orchestral work. In addition to a yearly season of many Biola-related concerts, the Chorale also performs at notable area churches.

Meet Ms. Shawna Cross Stewart

Shawna Cross Stewart

Shawna Cross Stewart conducts the Biola University Chorale and the Vocal Jazz ensemble.  As Associate Professor, she also teaches the conducting classes, Choral Methods and Choral Literature. Previously, she was an instructor of choral music at John Brown University and the director of Choral Studies at North Dakota State College of Science.
Ms. Stewart is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music with a Master of Music in Choral Conducting. She is a Doctorate of Musical Arts candidate in Choral Music at the University of Southern California. In addition to her doctoral studies with William Dehning, she has had the privilege of receiving instruction in conducting from Helmuth Rilling, Kenneth Jennings, Donald Neuen, René Clausen, Donald Hunsberger and David Effron.
Ms. Stewart has been active in church music ministry. In Los Angeles she has held short and long-term positions at several area churches including the Crystal Cathedral, Whittier Area Community Church and Granada Heights Friends Church.

Home away from home: Ibis Hotel, Prague

Image of Ibis Praha Wenceslas Square, Prague
After leaving Germany behind, the nights of Friday, April 13th, and Saturday, April 14th will be spent in the Czech Republic. While in Prague, the Biola Choir will stay at the three star Ibis Hotel near the Wenceslas Square, which is centrally located and very accessible. The castle and historical part of town are easily reached by foot.

The 181 rooms are outfitted to international standards, including air conditioning, internet connection, telephone, TV and a full bathroom. There are several breakfast varieties available according to preference, but traditionally an all-you-can-eat continental buffet is served. The in-house restaurant specializes on a variety of seasonal cuisine. There is also the option of using the sauna, indoor heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi and fitness center at the hotel next door, although a fee does apply.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Home away from home: Balance Hotel, Leipzig

The last stop in Germany for the Biola Choir will be in the historical town of Leipzig. After the recital at the St. Thomas Church, the night of April 12th will be spent at the Balance Hotel. It is situated in a central, yet quiet location not even two miles from the city center. It can be easily reach via the city's tram system, especially since public transportation is included in the hotel fare.
The hotel restaurant is well known for its elegant yet local cuisine. Breakfast is also offered here. And for a delicious and inexpensive snack, there are two bakeries next to the tram station down the street. All 126 rooms are spaciously decorated and feature WiFi, TV, telephone and a free coffee and tea bar in every room. The use of the sauna and fitness club is included in the room fare.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Home away from home: Leonardo Hotel, Weimar

Leonardo Hotel Weimar - Exterior
Talk to your friends at Fullerton College about this great hotel and the wonderful town it is in. Just like the singers directed by Mr. John Tebay, the Biola Choir under the direction of Mrs. Shawna Stewart will be spending the nights of Monday April 9th, Tuesday April 10th, and Wednesday April 11th in the beautiful city of Weimar. 
The modern four star Leonardo Hotel is within walking distance of the historical old town and immediately next to a park by the river Ilm. The location also accounts for the beautiful park and river views from many of the 294 rooms.
Leonardo Hotel Weimar - LobbyAll rooms are decorated in a classic and comfortable design. They feature a telephone, satellite TV, WiFi and a full bathroom in addition to air conditioning in all areas of the hotel. There is an extensive breakfast buffet in the mornings, while international and local specialties are served a la carte during the day.
Relaxation is also provided for in the health club, situated under a large domed glass roof. In addition to the indoor swimming pool; a whirlpool, sauna, solarium, fitness area and beauty & wellness center are also available for use. Two bowling alleys and a billiard table provide for additional entertainment.
For a full tour of the hotel, check out the official hotel video.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bayreuth, Germany: A town inspired by Richard Wagner - and a true royal fairy tale

The festival city of Bayreuth in Upper Franconia (Oberfranken) is relatively quiet most of the year until the Richard Wagner Festival settles in for 30 days every summer. Bayreuth features a wealth of impressive baroque and rococo architecture. Though he only lived in the town for a relatively short period towards the end of his life, Richard Wagner casts a long shadow over BAYREUTH. For most of the world Bayreuth and Wagner are simply synonymous, as though outside the extraordinary annual social and musical spectacle known as the Festspiele, no other Bayreuth existed. The peaceful life of the small Franconian town ended in 1876, when the Richard Wagner Festival began. By 1873 Wagner had already moved into his home, which he called "Wahnfried". The town councilors rightly expected the Festival to stimulate and develop the town. After the death of Wagner, the Festival continued under the direction of his widow, Cosima. High-ranking musicians and writers, but also more and more prominent people from business and politics among the visitors, were the reason that the Bayreuth festival was firmly established in the cultural and social calendar of Europe from 1888 onwards. Yet the town you actually see owes to the passions of another remarkable individual, the Markgräfin Wilhelmine (1709–58). The eldest daughter of Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia and the sister of Frederick the Great, Wilhelmine was groomed by her Hanoverian mother for marriage into the British royal family. But the plans were thwarted by her father, who – partly for political reasons, partly out of loathing for his wife's British relatives – married her off instead to a minor royal and distant relative, Friedrich von Brandenburg-Bayreuth, the future margrave of the insignificant Franconian micro-state of the same name. Despite its unpromising start, the marriage was a happy one, and with her aspirations to enter the glittering world of the London court thwarted, the intelligent and educated Wilhelmine decided instead to bring worldly sophistication to Bayreuth, embarking on an extravagant building program whose fruits still grace the town today. Wagner's Festspielhaus may have a superb acoustic, but it's notoriously spartan; Wilhelmine's opera house, on the other hand, is a Baroque gem. Her Baroque quarter of town wraps itself around the eastern and southern sides of the diminutive Altstadt all small and compact enough to be explored easily on foot. The extensive Hofgarten stretches east from the center to Wagner's Villa Wahnfried, while his Festspielhaus is on high ground north of the center. It's also worth venturing out of town to see Wilhelmine's summer pleasure palace, Eremitage.
Bayreuth is quite the paparazzi hotspot during the Festspiele in late July and August, when the most surprising celebrities can be seen affecting an interest in the Ring. For the rest of the year, it is a quiet and stolidly respectable sort of place, but Wilhelmine's magic ensures it's worth a stay of a day or two.