Concert Choir welcomes spring at UMES

  • Friday, March 18, 2011

    Dr. Sheila Harleston 

    PRINCESS ANNE, MD-(March 17, 2011)Members of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Concert Choir take the stage for their spring performance on Sun., April 3, at 4 p.m. in the Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts.  New to the program-an alumni choir and a guest appearance by the Aida String Ensemble from Baltimore.

    "We are expecting about 40 alumni to join us for the concert," Dr. Sheila McDonald Harleston, director of choral activities at UMES, said.  They hail from Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Tennessee and as far away as California.

    Harleston said the music department has attempted to reunite former choir members before, but that this time "more students were available to come, especially when I announced my retirement at the end of this year."  Harleston will retire after 21 years at the university.  She has directed the choir through innumerable performances on campus, in the community and abroad.  Her last performances with the choir will be at the spring concert and during the annual Concert Choir tour-this year to Nassau, Bahamas.

    "Dr. Harleston literally gave us the world," former choir member Thaddeus J. Randall of Upper Marlboro, Md., said.  "She made a way for us to travel and experience it (the world) the way we all knew best-through music.  Her anchor has kept us (alumni of the choir) together long after we left."

    Kevin Allen, now a music instructor and department chair at a junior high school in Woodbridge, Va., agreed.  "She taught us so much, pushing us farther than we thought we could go and expecting nothing but our best," he said.  "I wouldn't have guessed that I would have competed anywhere and traveled to so many countries.  She opened my eyes to a world bigger than my self."

    Harleston has received many accolades throughout her career.  She was the recipient of the 2008 University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for mentoring.  She also was selected as a national conductor for the 2009 performance of the "105" Voices of History" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.  Most recently, she was given the 2010 Distinguished Contribution Award for Outstanding Promotion of Black Music and Black Musicians from Concert Choir 2010(1)the National Association of Negro Musicians.

    Harleston will direct the UMES Concert Choir, Chorale and the Alumni Choir at the spring concert themed, "Les' Have a Union."  Pieces by Haydn, Tschesnokoff, Mendelssohn, Rutter, Luther, Beck, Thompson and others will be performed by the choirs.

    The Aida String Ensemble, founded by violinist and vocalist Tona Brown of Chesapeake, Va., showcases the talents of African-American string players at the concert.  The group has played in concert halls, churches, colleges and universities in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. 

    UMES' Concert Choir spring event is free and open to the public.  Call 410-651-6574.  CD's of the choir from their 2009-10 repertoire are available for $12.99 or two for $25.

    ###

     Gail Stephens, assistant director, UMES Office of Public Relations, 410-651-7580, gcstephens@umes.edu.