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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Dudley Birder to say farewell to another role at St. Norbert College

Artistic director of Dudley Birder Chorale of St. Norbert College

DE PERE, Wis. - Dudley Birder, one of the most influential figures in music in the region, is retiring from the choir that bears his name as his active years with St. Norbert College draw to a close.

St. Norbert College announce today that Birder will officially retire as director of the Dudley Birder Chorale of St. Norbert College effective June 1. Birder founded the chorale at St. Norbert in 1974.

Birder, 90, has been associated with the college for 60 years, first as a teacher and since 1962 as a shaper of the college’s ties with the community through organizations he founded at the college. They include Music Theatre of St. Norbert College, Swinging Knights/Chamber Singers and what became the present-day Dudley Birder Chorale of St. Norbert College.

The college has recognized his contributions. A performance hall on campus bears his name. At commencement this year, Birder will receive an honorary degree.

The Swinging Knights show troupe ended when Birder retired from academic duties in 1993. A feature story on Birder’s and the group’s influence is at

Birder retired from the summer Music Theatre of St. Norbert College in July 2017 after a 56-year run of producing 96 musicals involving hundreds of community performers.

The chorale, he has said, has been closest to his heart. Most visible of all its performances have been the annual “Holiday Pops” concerts at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. The chorale regularly attracted 150 singers from approximately 30 area communities for many years.

In an interview in 2015, Birder explained a lot about himself:

In a press release, the college said, “The chorale will continue at St. Norbert College under the direction of Interim Director Kent Paulsen.”

For 10 years, Paulsen has directed Knights on Broadway, the successor show group to the Swinging Knights.

Also in the St. Norbert College press release:

+ “Dudley has been an iconic figure at St. Norbert College and in the greater community,” said St. Norbert College President Brian Bruess. “For 60 years, we have been the recipient of his vision, hard work and irrepressible spirit. He truly embodies the Norbertine tradition of radical hospitality, bringing hundreds of people to campus each year to enjoy music theater and chorale performances.”

+ “Audience members have come to expect nothing but perfection in his concerts and performances,” said Pat Sands, president of the Dudley Birder Chorale Board of Directors and a member of the chorale. “Enjoying his selections of classical, sacred, show tunes and contemporary music is a joy and will be remembered and appreciated for a lifetime.”

+  “How do you say goodbye to the man who retires as the chorale conductor and artistic director, who has done more for music at St. Norbert College and in the Green Bay area than any other person? You don’t. You say thank you a hundred times or more,” said Tom Hamilton, chorale member since 1976.

+ Birder made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1990 and returned five times.

+ Since 1997, he has appeared as conductor for the annual “Holiday Pops” at the Weidner Center.

+ Dudley Birder Hall was named in his honor in 2013.

+ The college awarded Birder the President’s Medal in 1999 “for his dedication to his art and service to the community.”

+ Birder will receive an honorary degree from St. Norbert College at commencement on May 13.

+ The chorale board voted to name Birder artistic director emeritus of the Dudley Birder Chorale.

Birder’s birthday is March 23.

Contact me at Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.

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