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SIOUX CITY -- Heath Weber is best known for being the dean of Morningside College's School of Visual and Performing Arts, but he has another title you may not be aware of.

Along with his fellow ensemble members, Weber is also a 2018 Best Choral Performance Grammy nominee for the South Dakota Chorale's "Tyberg Masses" album.

"When people hear about our Grammy nomination, they'll ask if that's the Grammy and not some regional equivalent," he said of the recording that features Masses composed by Marcel Tyberg, who was killed at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. "No, we mean it was the Grammy Grammy."

Even though they didn't snag the music world's top prize, this recognition certainly provided a confidence boost for the Sioux Falls-based chorale, which is a collaborative network of local, regional and national music professionals. 

Under the baton of founder, artistic director and conductor Brian A. Schmidt, the South Dakota Chorale will be performing Rachmaninoff's Vespers at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Cathedral of the Epiphany, 1000 Douglas St.

One of Sergei Rachmaninoff's favorite compositions, Vespers merges centuries of traditional liturgical styles with distinctive Romantic and 20th century touches.

More important for Weber is the fact that Vespers was tailor-made for bass singers like himself.

"If you ask an alto or soprano about Rachmaninoff's Vespers, they'll say it's OK," Weber noted. "On the other hand, ask a bass singer the same question and he'll say it is the most beautiful piece of music ever written."

"The piece was made to be sung in Russian by guys with a deep, booming voice," he added with a laugh. 

Perhaps, this is what separates a chorale performance from other types of choir music.

"Especially in the Midwest, we're used to very restrained type of choir music," Weber explained. "Chorale music is much more European in sound. You're encouraged to sing in gusto and use your outdoor voice." 

The mission of the South Dakota Chorale is to "(bring) people together to produce inspirational world class performances of choral arts that embrace artistry and enrich cultural life." 

"When Brian Schmidt founded the South Dakota Chorale on 2009, he knew there was a need for a professional chorale ensemble for singers in southeast South Dakota and northwest Iowa," Weber said. "We provide collaborations with high school choirs, lead master classes with pre-professional and collegiate singers while providing support and awareness for the arts."

But it is also lots of fun hearing a group of booming voices singing movements entirely in Russian.

"I don't speak Russian," Weber admitted. "With Vespers, I can tell people I can sing in Russian." 

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