The Aeolians, with their unique harmony and musical excellence, competed in the Choir of the World Competition during the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales, July 5-9. In 1947, the same year that Dr. Eva B. Dykes established the Aeolians at Oakwood, the Welsh Eisteddfod was created as a peace festival, following World War II, to unite people of all nationalities through music and dance.
This focus continues today as the Eisteddfod brings people together from across the globe to perform and compete in an “unparalleled spirit of friendship and goodwill.” In addition to receiving monetary prizes and trophies for placing in a variety of competition categories, first place awardees move on to compete for the two ultimate awards—Choir of the World 2017 Pavarotti Trophy and Dance Champion 2017. Of particular note, for this 70th year celebration, a new award was added—The Gwobr Jane Davies Prize for Outstanding Conducting.
On June 26, the Aeolians started on a journey in Europe where being open to the world was unavoidable. The Aeolians performed seven concerts to packed and enthusiastic audiences in Peterborough, London, Birmingham, and Manchester.
After a five hour bus ride from London, the Aeolians arrived at the competition site in Wales on July 5 as a virtually unknown ensemble. One festival goer was heard to say “I wonder where these young people are from? Do you think they are good?” The opportunity to talk to, rub shoulders, sing with and mingle with people of various cultures was an eye opening occurrence. The vibrancy of the native colors of costumes, the varying cadences of languages and the unique facial structures of God’s creation was such a reminder of what Heaven will be.
Our young people in those few days carried themselves with Christian diplomacy, Oakwood pride and cultural openness. They showed love to the people and the love was reciprocated. One attendee posted on the LLangollen Facebook page, “This choir wowed us at Llangollen. But we were also impressed by their courtesy to one another -men assisting women on the choir stand steps, for instance, and their graciousness to other choirs, standing and applauding the choir they came second and third place to in the competition. They were pleasant when greeted or spoken to by festival goers.” Dr. Dykes would have been proud. The 70th anniversary of both the competition and the Aeolian legacy was a great talking point as the Oakwoodites made friends at the festival.
The Aeolians competed in the Adult Folk Song Choir, Youth Choir, and Mixed Choir categories and won third, first and second place, respectively. The first place win in the Youth Choir category allowed them to compete against the stiff competition of four other choirs in the final category for the Choir of the World title and the esteemed Pavarotti Trophy. On the evening of July 9, the Oakwood University Aeolians were awarded the coveted 2017 Choir of the World Pavarotti Trophy. The Aeolians director, Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand received the first ever Gwobr Jane Davies Outstanding Conductor award.
“The greatest joy as a professor is watching the unadulterated joy of students that can experience the results of discipline, mental fortitude and goodwill,” said Dr. Ferdinand. “This [competition] was no walk in the park and we had to conform to standards set by the professional choral world. We made adjustments to the very last minute. So very proud of our students. With God’s help WE DID IT!”
“On behalf of the entire Oakwood University community, we celebrate the success of the Oakwood University Aeolians on another history-making accomplishment,” said Dr. Leslie Pollard, President of Oakwood University. “To be named Choir of the World at the International Welsh Eisteddfod in Wales is a singular honor that represents the excellence of our university. Congratulations to the director, Dr. Jason Ferdinand, and especially our Oakwood University students. You have distinguished yourselves and made us proud and thankful once again.”
Photos by Michael Marshall, II
Source: Pat McBean Pates, Secretary and International Alumni Coordinator, OUAA