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Composer teaches, inspires WNY students

In his Western New York debut, Norwegian-born composer Ola Gjeilo inspired many students with his melodies.

Gjeilo, who has lived in New York City for many years and is a Juilliard School of Music alumnus, received a warm welcome last week from chorus students and faculty of Immaculata Academy, Hamburg High School and Lewiston-Porter High School and well as the Vocalis Chamber Choir.

At a workshop hosted Friday by Hamburg High School, approximately 100 students of Immaculata’s Vox Caeciliae, Lewiston-Porter’s Concert Chorus and Hamburg’s Concert Chorale gathered to celebrate Gjeilo’s works. Throughout the workshop, he touched on balancing tone, technique and reviewing dynamics and interpretation of his compositions.

James Burritt, director of Vocalis Chamber Choir and Lewiston-Porter’s choirs, said, “What’s really unique about this whole experience is that you have someone who actually wrote the music in the room. It gives these compositions a human perspective.”

Gjeilo offered this advice to students: “The more you stay true to who you are, the more original you will be. You’re unique.”

On Sunday, the Vocalis Chamber Choir and Hamburg High School Concert Chorale welcomed Gjeilo to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church to close out Vocalis’ 13th season. “The Music of Ola Gjeilo” consisted of pieces from his repertoire. In addition to nine songs, one of which was a world premiere, he also improvised on the piano at the end of the concert.

“You can’t not go hard when performing Ola’s music; it’s intense,” said Erin Cuddihy, a senior member of Hamburg’s Concert Chorale.

Gjeilo’s brief but welcome visit was a highlight for any choral music enthusiast.

Deanna Garwol is a sophomore at Immaculata Academy.