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McDaniel College's director of choral activities to lead her final concerts after 30-year career there

The upcoming days will be filled with music for Margaret Boudreaux, but will mark a change in direction from the course she has held steady for 30 years.

Two concerts will be her last as the director of choral activities at McDaniel College before she retires. Sunday, May 5 is the Masterworks Chorale Concert, titled “Songs of Peace and Rejoicing” at 3 p.m. in Baker Memorial Chapel. Longtime member Joe Dorsey, who has been singing since the third grade, said the concert is full of old favorites and familiar pieces.

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On Monday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m., The Madrigal Singers, which Boudreaux founded in 1989, will perform “An Evening of Madrigals.”

Boudreaux also served as Chair of the Music Department for 25 years. She assumed the director role with Masterworks Chorale in 2002.

McDaniel was her first experience at a small institution.

“Everybody knows each other, much, much more closely than in the very large institutions with large graduate schools in their music programs,” she said.

Much like the compositions of her longtime academic fascinations Michael Praetorius, whose 400-year-old compositions are complex and layered, Boudreaux has a busy role directing many ensembles.

These, as well as countless others from near and far, cross-pollinate often. The McDaniel College Choir, who performed their final concert under Boudreaux Sunday, April 28, will sing in the upcoming Masterworks Chorale concert.

For each, “I take pretty much the same approach, pedagogically,” she said.

The difference comes from the development of the voices and the choice in music. Masterworks Chorale tends to favor larger, orchestral pieces, while the McDaniel choir pieces incorporate more contemporary and acapella sounds.

“Working with the college group, I'm more aware of my responsibility over the time they're here to give them the broadest variety of styles, and historical periods, and different types of techniques they can learn as possible,” she said.

She could be considering the pieces in a concert two years in advance, and usually has Masterwork’s pieces solidified six months in advance of a performance. But she also tries to work with members of the ensemble if there’s something they really want to explore. Several of the pieces in the final McDaniel College Choir concerts were student requests.

“And they fit very well into the program … not only could I include something that was really important to someone who's been singing with us, but I would learn something new that I hadn't done before,” she said.

In preparation for a concert, “There's many schools of thought that you should go into the first rehearsal prepared to the level that you could conduct a piece in concert,” she said. “I try to go as closely to that as I can, but I leave myself a lot of room to grow and develop and to change my ideas.”

As a director, she tries to draw attention to the spots in the music that are difficult or require extra emphasis, but she also wants to research the history of the pieces, why they were composed and in what context.

Masterworks Chorale member Diane Baublitz said that as a director Boudreaux’s love of music and knowledge of the history of the pieces shines through.

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In rehearsals, “She helps us laugh at ourselves. She brings out the best in us because there is no pressure,” she said.

Jan Hardy, who has been in the ensemble for more than 10 years said, “I have loved it. It’s another family.”

Some of the pieces in the upcoming concert are old favorites, and others hold special meaning.

The Masterworks Chorale will perform a piece titled “Earth Song.”

“There's a great line in the middle of it. ‘But music and singing have been my refuge/ And music and singing shall be my light.’ So that one has a lot of meaning,” she said.

And most any returning guest or McDaniel alum will recognize the closing hymn, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” which has concluded every spring concert since 1989.

After her retirement from McDaniel, Boudreaux will travel to Germany for six weeks to dig more into her work on Praetorius before continuing research with colleagues in Europe and the US.

She came to study Praetorius, an early Baroque period German composer when a professor asked her to translate a Praetorius piece from German to English. She found parallels to what she had learned teaching music to high-schoolers in Phoenix Arizona for 10 years.

“He was saying that music is essential for the spiritual health, not only of everyone who's involved in the singing, and the learning, but for the entire community,” she said.

While she was teaching in the mid-1980s, “I saw in many of those students that this was the only thing that was going on in their life. It just gave me that terrible sense of responsibility, an awesome sense of responsibility,” she said. “No matter what they throw at you, you have to make this work. You just do, and it has to be filled with joy. Because if this moment is lost, it will never be recovered.”

Bourdreaux will pass the leadership of the vocal ensembles to another longtime member of the McDaniel faculty, Kyle Engler. She has led the vocal instruction department for years.

“I'm certain that she'll do a great job,” Boudreaux said.

The past year has been one of rapid change for those in the McDaniel community, and the music major and minor were among those cut in a restructuring that will phase out several undergraduate academic programs. Administration has said that vocal and instrumentals will continue.

Boudreaux said it has been sad and unexpected to see the music department she chaired phased out as she retires. Cutting music programs is widespread across many institutions, she said.

But from studying the history of the music program at the college and other institutions, she has optimism that the ensembles will remain a robust, vital part of the culture.

“I have no doubt,” she said, “that it will it will see a renaissance in the not-too-distant future.”

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