DECATUR – Heavenly music in a sacred place gave a Decatur audience the perfect escape route from the ravages of winter Sunday afternoon.
The University Choir of Millikin University concluded a two-week Midwest tour with a hometown performance at St. Patrick Catholic Church to an appreciative crowd that filled the pews. Even the weather, for a while, sang a happy tune as the mercury hit the giddy heights of the upper 40s before normal Arctic conditions were due to resume.
The 46-strong choir wrapped their finely-honed voices around Christian music stretching back to the 16th century, and the glorious sound rolled around the church's cavernous acoustics. Kristy Harner from Argenta got hooked on the choir as a regular at its Christmas Vespers concert and brought along her 3-year-old stepgranddaugher Gracelynn Osborn to give her a taste of what the human voice can aspire to.
“The Millikin Choir always does such a nice job,” she said. “And they try to support the local community.”
And that involves fitting in local concerts for free amid a hectic schedule that will see the choir off to the Baltic region of Europe in May for a tour of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Brad Holmes, who conducts the choir and is director of choir programs at Millikin, said local tours are also recruiting tools that show off the choir and tempt future student singers.
“Just trying to connect with more kids who might come to Millikin,” he added. “That is part of it, you bet.”
Millikin singers like 22-year-old baritone Nicholas Young from Glen Ellyn are having such a good time as part of the choir, he's sad for those who won't get to experience it. “It's almost magical when a chord really locks and everyone just sort of feels it,” he said. “You just see this big smile on everyone's face, and it's such a cool thing.”
Laura Peete, 22, is an alto from Crystal Lake who says being in the choir is a major commitment on top of course work, with rehearsals every day. But she says all the hard work and the quality of the school's voice tuition fuels a transcendant joy that shines out of their concerts.
“It's really humbling to feel that gift and be able to give it to the people who come to our performances,” she said. “I just feel like we have the ability to make magic real and that is something that is very, very rare. Music has the ability to do that.”