School of the Arts

South Bend Symphonic Choir Sings at the White House

white house South Bend Symphonic Choir at the White House

The snow was deep in Washington DC on December 21st and the temperatures hovered in the 20’s, but the sun shone on the 21 singers of the South Bend Symphonic Choir as they entered the White House to perform a 90 minute concert.

The event took place in the Grand Foyer of the historic mansion with the portraits of the Presidents of the United States looking down on the group. Hundreds of people watched the choir perform for the special holiday open house. Mrs. Evan Bayh, wife of Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, attended and took several pictures with the group.

Three students are members of the resident choral ensemble of The Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts.  Bass Antwon Williams from Elkhart, soprano CreAnne Mwale from South Bend, and accompanist Omar Cherry participated with community choir members, some of whom have sung with the ensemble since its inception in 1964. Cherry had a particular great view as he accompanied the choir on the 1938 Steinway piano designed by Eric Gugler (with help from Franklin Roosevelt) and given to the White House in 1938 by the manufacturer. It is decorated with gilt stenciling by Dunbar Beck and has spectacular golden eagle legs. This instrument usually sits in the East Room but was moved to the Grand Foyer for this occasion.

After the concert, the choir toured the mansion marveling at the exquisite decorations including the massive Christmas tree in the Blue Room and the Ginger Bread House in the State Dining Room. Choir members received a special gift from the White House staff: two boxes of special White House cookies shaped like a squirrel, a tree; and the Obamas’ dog, Bo. The performance was a triumph for the choir, IU South Bend, the city of South Bend, and conductor Dean Marvin V. Curtis.

The Symphonic Choir of South Bend was founded in 1967 and in 1975 became the ensemble-in-residence at IU South Bend.