Choral Leadership Award

Eleanor Burla and James Livingston have both been chosen to receive the 2013 UP Choral Leadership Award at the Marquette Choral Society concerts on Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 PM and on Sunday, April 28 at 3:00 PM.   These concerts, titled "A Mighty Fortress:  Sacred Music for All Seasons," are at the Reynolds Recital Hall on the campus of Northern Michigan University.  This the the 21st year the Award has been given.

Eleanor Burla of Bessemer taught elementary through high school music in the Bessemer and Ironwood area Schools, starting in 1950 and retiring in 1987.  A former student of hers says, "Her energy, enthusiasm, expertise, but mostly her ability to communicate her love of music to a group of sometimes unruly teenagers produced some of the most accomplished choral groups our high school has ever known."

In addition to planting the seeds of a life-long love of music, Ms. Burla was a mentor to all of her students, and took on the role of confidante when they needed to talke to an adult about teenage issues that just couldn't be discussed with parents!

Ms. Burla worked tirelessly to prepare her students for concerts as well as for solo and ensemble competitions.  Ms Burla has coached and adjudicated many solo and ensemble festival competitors, attaining the status of Master Adjudicator for the Wisconsin School Music Association.

She became choir director at St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Bessemer and carries on those duties currently.  She is a founding member of the Chamber Singers, a group of 25 to 30 local vocalists which presents two to three concerts each year.  Eleanor sings alto with the group, and is one of their directors.

Local theater in the West End of the Upper Peninsula has benefited from her leadership in directing musicals such as "Fiddler on the Roof," "The Sound of Music," Jerry's Girls," and "Mame."

Through her dedication to and her love of choral music, Eleanor Burla has influenced the lives of countless singers, both young and old, and continues to be a strong musical presence in her community.

Dr. James Livingston of Skandia, emeritus Professor of English at Northern Michigan University, specialized in Elizabethan literature and culture, literature of the Bible, and mythology.  Students in his British literature classes have heard him perform traditional British folksongs and songs of the Elizabethan poets including Shakespeare and Ben Johnson.

In addition, his lively interest in music has led him to participate in the Marquette Community Theater musicals, including "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Oliver."  Jim has also performed in several NMU musical theater productions including "The Magic Flute" and "Trial by Jury."  Prior to arriving at Northern, he sang with the Detroit choral ensemble Philomusica in the ensemble's Christmas Eve services at St. Joseph's Church in Detroit.

In the early days of the Marquette Choral Society, director Dr. Douglas Amman asked Jim to proofread the program notes then written by NMU music students.  After completing a minor in music himself at NMU in the 1970's, Jim took over the task of writing all the notes for the Choral Society concerts, and he continues in that capacity today. 

Choral Society director Dr. Floyd Slotterback says, "Jim has provided the most consistently interesting and educational program notes I have ever read."  Careful research and his numerous academic articles about the Renaissance give a strong basis for his writing.  In addition, it is not unusual during Choral Society rehearsals for Jim to add entertaining historical and cultural comments about composers and their compositions, and to guide the group on pronunciation of Latin words.

When composer/musician Jackson Berkey (Manheim Steamroller) was in Marquette for the premiere of his choral "Mass Over a Period of Time" and to perform other of his works, Jim wrote the program notes for that concert.  Dr. Slotterback recalls, "When Jim's notes impressed the composer, Jackson asked Jim to write the liner notes for the commercial CD issue of the music.  Jackson's remark to me was 'This fellow knows more about my music than I do!'"

Dr. Livingston's contribution to the enjoyment and continuing education of Choral Society audiences certainly meets the criteria for the UP Choral Leadership Award, namely at least ten years service to choral music, demonstrating excellence in teaching, conducting, and/or support for quality choral music in the Upper Peninsula.  This Award is given annually by the Marquette Choral Society.

Tickets for the Marquette Choral Society concerts on April 27 and 28 are $10 each, and may be purchased at all NMU Ticket outlets at the Superior Dome, the NMU Bookstore, the Forest Roberts Theatre Box Office, or at the door if not sold out.  For more information, call the NMU Music Department office, 906-227-2563, or go to, or like us on Facebook