The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Vesper Choir left the campus Monday to begin their seven-day journey through Madrid, Spain. Entitled, “American Celebration of Music in Spain,”the city is the destination for this year’s spring tour for the ensemble. Vesper Choir Director Dr. Michael Bates will travel with 49 members of the Choir and staff for an experience that will afford them the ability to tour many of the landmarks there. The choir will perform at venues such as the Church of San Manuel and San Benito, El Escorial, and Church of St. John the King.
The year 2017 is of special significance to the Vesper Choir because it marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ensemble. The choir was founded by Professor Ariel “Pops” Lovelace, who at the time served as chairman of the Music Department. Upon his departure, the Vesper Choir was directed for nearly 50 years by Professor Shelton J. “Fessor” McGee. Both men were consummate musicians and were instrumental in developing and nurturing a tradition of musical excellence that is still a hallmark of the Choir. Now under the leadership of Dr. Michael J. Bates, the Vesper Choir continues the tradition of excellence established by Professors Lovelace and McGee. Dr. Bates has enhanced that tradition via performances throughout the mid-South and across the country; a 2006 performance tour to four cities in Italy; performances at prestigious venues such as The National Cathedral in Washington D.C., and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine New York City (the fourth largest Christian church in the world), mega-churches such as The Potter’s House in Dallas and Faithful Central Bible Church in Los Angeles; and recent performances with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.