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The Topeka Festival Singers is a highly select, auditioned choral ensemble consisting of women and men from the Topeka area. Celebrating their 21st anniversary this season, the group was formed in 1984 by Myles Criss, conductor, and Richard Gayhart, accompanist. In 1987, Dr. Kevin Kellim was invited to serve as the ensemble’s conductor. This prestigious group presents four major concerts each year as its season subscription series. They also appear at other special events, including several appearances over the years on the holiday edition of the KANU Goodtime Radio Review.
The group has grown from 16 singers, 3 board members, and an audience of 300 to approximately 45 singers, 18 board members, and audiences that average 1250 at each performance.
The Mission Statement of the Singers is “To provide an artistic outlet for outstanding singers of this region and to provide the people of this region with first quality performances.”
The Singers perform a wide selection of choral literature, with programming that has featured current compositions of African-American, Native American and women composers. Several world premiers of commissioned works have been featured over the years, as well as the works of innovative contemporary composers. More traditional concerts feature works of the masters: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and many others. The final concert of each season is devoted to music from the stage and screen. Over the past few years, the Singers have modified their annual program to include the local Topeka high school choral groups to participate in one of the concerts.
The Singers took their first international tour to Europe in 1989 and returned for a second trip abroad in 1999. The singers were invited to perform at the 1994 America Choral Directors Association regional convention in Denver. Their concerts are often replayed on KANU-FM, Lawrence. Most recently, the Singers have performed with Mannheim Steamroller in 2004 and the Topeka Symphony Orchestra in 2005.
Each year the group awards a vocal music scholarship to Washburn University of Topeka. The members of the group volunteer hundreds of hours of rehearsal and performance time each year.
The Topeka Capital-Journal review observed that the Singers provide insight and entertainment that can be enjoyed by anyone. They are one of the major forces that have made Topeka concert life a bright spot for our city’s pride. Another of their reviews said that the singers performed with their usual enthusiasm and devotion to detail. They always seem particularly able to convey the joy of performing to the audience.
The singers have appreciated some past and some present support from American Home Life, Aviva, CoreFirst, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Integrated Wealth Advisors, Payless ShoeSource, Security Benefit, Tallgrass Surgical Specialists, U.S. Bank, Washburn University of Topeka, The Topeka Capital-Journal, KSNT-TV 27, WIBW-13, Arts Connect and the Kansas Arts Commission.