Choral Festival Features World Premiere for 75th Anniversary

75th Anniversary Festival choir comprises 350 high school singers from across North Carolina

Choral Festival choir on stage

Festival Choir from 2019 J. Elwood Roberts–Mars Hill University Choral Festival.

Mars Hill University will welcome several hundred high school music students to campus on February 9 and 10, 2024, for the J. Elwood Roberts—Mars Hill University Choral Festival. This is the festival’s 75th anniversary and features the world premiere of a new musical work during the concluding concert at 3 p.m. on Saturday, February 10, in Moore Auditorium. Admission to the concert is free.

The festival was established in 1949 by the late J. Elwood Roberts as an effort to improve choral music in the high schools of western North Carolina. Over the years the “choral clinic” has grown from about 15 schools to a festival of more than 80 schools with 350 singers. The festival choir, along with the Mars Hill University Choir, will premiere the new work, commissioned by Jubilate Music Group and published as a part of the Mars Hill University Choral Series. The new work, composed by Lloyd Larson, is entitled “A Psalm of Triumph.”

Rod Caldwell, chair of music and director of choral studies at Mars Hill said, “It is such a thrill to be able to share this new work with the choral community, not only through its premiere at our festival, but also through the Mars Hill University Choral Series. It is the promotion of a community of singing that the festival’s founder (J. Elwood Roberts) envisioned 75 years ago!”

Mark Cabaniss, president and CEO of Jubilate Music Group and a Mars Hill alumnus from the class of 1982, said, “We are delighted to add this new piece from renowned composer/arranger Lloyd Larson to the Mars Hill University Choral Series. But the extra thrill is that it will be premiered at the storied Mars Hill University Choral Festival on its 75th anniversary with Mr. Larson in attendance.”

Eric Nelson

Guest clinicial Eric Nelson of Emory University.

Guest clinician for this year’s festival is Eric Nelson, professor of music and director of choral studies at Emory University. He is also the conductor and artistic director of Atlanta Master Chorale. Nelson’s choirs have performed throughout the world, including London, Rome, Krakow, Berlin, Leipzig, Prague, Moscow, Seoul, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Sydney Opera House.