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November 22, 2011
By Nonie Wainwright
The University of Nevada, Reno Department of Music announces the addition of Paul Torkelson, an esteemed choral conductor and educator, to the University faculty this fall. Torkelson will serve as the director of choral activities, conduct the symphonic choir and chamber chorale, and teach choral methods and conducting.
Torkelson, who debuted as director of choral activities last month when he directed the University Chamber Singers in concert, will direct a free concert of Handel's "Messiah" at the Nightingale Concert Hall as the University Choirs and Symphony Orchestras perform on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
"I think I've conducted Messiah at least 15 times, but I've really enjoyed preparing it this year," Torkelson said. "We've worked very hard to make the text understandable which can sometimes be a problem, and we'll also get a chance to feature many of our singers as soloists in the concert."
Composed in 1741, "Messiah" premiered in Dublin, Ireland in April of 1742. It was repeatedly revised by Handel and reached its most familiar version in 1754. Although the work was conceived for secular theatre and first performed during Lent or at Easter, it has become common practice since Handel's death to perform "Messiah" during Advent, the preparatory period of the Christmas season.
Torkelson earned his bachelor of music education degree from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, where he sang in the Wartburg Choir, a group he later conducted for 25 years. He also holds a master of music degree from Kansas State University and a doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Colorado.
Recently retired from his position as Zahn Chair of Choral Music at his alma mater, Torkelson brings years of knowledge and expertise to the University. As a professor at Wartburg, he taught music history, advanced conducting and was a member of the Scholars faculty.
"I took the position here at the University because I missed working with students," Torkelson said. "I really appreciate the dedication and the talent of the students. They really are good musicians and they want to succeed."
Torkelson, former principal conductor-in-residence for MidAmerica Productions in New York City, has conducted numerous choir performances at Carnegie Hall. In 2007, He traveled to Cape Town, South Africa to work with musicians at the Simon Estes School observing classes and listening to choirs and various instrumental groups, including percussion ensembles. After meeting with the faculty and discussing learning styles and teaching techniques, he taught voice lessons and observed singers who were studying both classical and popular (i.e. Broadway) literature.
Also in 2007, Torkelson was invited to conduct at the Heritage of Gold Festival in New York City along with 10 other festivals around the Midwest. He has served as chorus master for the opera at the Festival of the Aegean on the Island of Syros in Greece.
Under the direction of Torkelson, the Wartburg Choir has performed at the American Choral Directors Association national convention and the North Central regional convention three times. In 2004, the "Washington Post" reviewed the Wartburg Choir at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and stated the group "has impeccable intonation and excellent diction, and was trained with rock-solid discipline."
The choir completed eight European tours as well as two trips to South Africa with the renowned opera singer and Wartburg professor and artist-in-residence, Simon Estes. In December 2006, the choir also sang with the Czech National Symphony in Prague. Torkelson has also been published in the Research Memorandum Series of the American Choral Review, and in 1984 he received the Louise Goucher Memorial Scholarship from the American Choral Foundation for work in madrigal performance. His other work consists of a presented session at the 1998 ACDA North-Central Division Convention on Renaissance performance practice, discussing rhythmic complexities in the music of early Reformation composers.
For more information about the University's Department of Music, go to the School of the Arts.
Nonie Wainwright is a performing arts graduate assistant in the School of the Arts.