UMD pays homage to Dr. Opheim’s opusMore than a few musicians know the feeling of having to perform just to scrape a few dollars together. Luckily, musicians participating in a special commemorative concert next Sunday in the Weber Music Hall on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus already have close to $10,000 behind them.
By: Thomas Vaughn, for the Duluth Budgeteer News
More than a few musicians know the feeling of having to perform just to scrape a few dollars together. Luckily, musicians participating in a special commemorative concert next Sunday in the Weber Music Hall on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus already have close to $10,000 behind them.
Under the direction of music professor Stanley R. Wold, current UMD orchestra students, the University Singers and about 45 former UMD choral singers from near and far will gather onstage to honor the memory of Professor V
ernon Opheim, choral director at UMD from 1972 until 1992. Opheim died last October.
The concert will also emphasize the future of choral music education at UMD. Former students, family, and friends of Opheim have established a new scholarship fund at UMD in his honor. With close to $10,000 already collected, the UMD Dr. Vernon Opheim Choral Scholarship committee hopes to award its first scholarship in 2013. Audience members will learn more about the scholarship at the concert.
“What I think is special about this new scholarship is that the genesis of it came from an alumna of Dr. Opheim’s who had a very strong connection with him and felt compelled to rally Opheim’s former students, initially through social media, toward the goal of establishing this scholarship,” said Robert Hofmann, senior director of development for the UMD School of Fine Arts.
Former instrumental music professor Dr. Robert Williams said Opheim worked hard to enhance the department as a whole.
“I remember Vern so well as a wonderful colleague and his contributions to the university curriculum,” Williams said. “He helped to develop the curriculum as we worked on committees together.”
During the Cold War years when the Berlin Wall still stood, Opheim took students on singing trips to countries behind the Iron Curtain, inaccessible to most Westerners at the time. Opheim’s professional interest in Eastern European music gave him contact with musicians working there and in Russia.
“During the time he was director of choral activities and director of the University Singers he finalized six or seven tours,” said Wold, who now holds the faculty position formerly occupied by Opheim. “These were not the kind you would expect — to Germany or Italy and so on.
“Rather, he was taking the University Singers to places like Moscow and St. Petersburg, to countries like Bulgaria and Poland, when very few others were doing it,” Wold added. “If you talk with former students who went on those trips they will tell you it was eye-opening.”
Vicki Ott sang for Opheim in both the University Singers and the Elizabethan Singers, a select ensemble dedicated to performing English music from centuries past. She went to Poland with the University Singers in 1981.
“We were there for four weeks,” Ott said. “We sang in many, many different venues throughout the country. He had relationships with many people there due to his interest in their music. We benefited from his experience and knowledge of their music and had some incredible times singing when we were there.”
Sunday’s concert will feature familiar choral repertoire from several centuries and countries along with Opheim’s arrangement of the spiritual “Let Us Break Bread Together On Our Knees.” Opheim’s wife Avis, and two of his three daughters and their families will attend the
Tickets for the event can be purchased by calling the Weber Music Hall box office at (218) 726-8877. The concert begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 4. Donations to the scholarship fund can be made through Robert Hofmann at the UMD School of Fine Arts by calling (218) 726-7434.
If you go
What: Opheim Memorial Concert
When: Sunday, March 4, 3 p.m.
Where: Weber Hall, UMD