Friday, December 25, 2015

Betelehemu - Origin, Translation, Performance Practice

The song Betelehemu (Babatunde Olatunji, arr. Wendell Whalum) has earned its place in Christmas choral literature over the past two decades ever since Barrington Brooks arranged it for SATB choir and it was published by Lawson-Gould/Warner Bros. in 1994.

Origins (via on November 23, 1999)

Thanks to all who responded with information about Wendell Whalum's
arrangement of the Nigerian Christmas song "Betelehemu." Though there are
still some sleuths out there working on leads, I think I have enough to piece
together the story.

Babatunde Olatunji was a student at Atlanta's Morehouse College during the
mid-1950s (he came from Nigeria on a Rotary scholarship). Wendell Whalum was
the choir director, and Olatunji gave him "Betelehemu," which Whalum arranged
the way we still hear and perform it today. So, the piece came to Whalum
"Via" (by way of) Olatunji, as is printed in the arrangement (though I have
to say it's a bit confusing, since "Via" is printed to look like the
composer's first name).

What's not clear is whether this was an original piece by Olatunji or simply
a traditional song that Olatunji taught to or transcribed for Whalum. The
latter is probably true, though if I learn more about it, I'll post it to the

If you'd like to know more about Olatunji, there's an entry in the website of
the Encyclopedia of African Music:

Submitted by Frank Albinder, Music Director, Washington Men's Camerata (FSAlbinder(a)

Babatunde's Influence on Drumming: (from

Baba was the single most important contributor to the popularization of African hand drumming in the United States. Baba created the popular Gun-Dun, Go-Do, Pa-Ta method of learning drum patterns in which these spoken sounds were able to help recall the sounds made on most hand drums -- with the Gun-Dun denoting the bass notes played with right and left hands; the Go-Do denoting the open tones; and the Pa-Ta denoting the slaps. This simple method revolutionized the learning rate for thousands of hand drum students in the West.
Baba's Beginner's Drumming Exercises:

Translation (from

Translation of "Betelehemu"
(Olatunji, Via) - arr. Wendall Whalum
We are glad that we have a Father to trust.
We are glad that we have a Father to rely upon
Where was Jesus born?
Where was He born?
Bethlehem, the city of wonder.
That is where the Father was born for sure.
Praise, praise, praise be to Him.
We thank thee, we thank Thee, we thank Thee for this day,
Gracious Father.
Praise, praise, praise be to Thee,
Merciful Father.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2015 WLA Christmas Concert CD

*NEWS FLASH* For the first time in over 23 years, the WLA Christmas Concert will be recorded and made into a CD and...
Posted by Dale Witte on Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Click here to order the 2015 WLA Christmas Concert CD

Track List:

1 Carol of the Child by David Haas
2 O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam
3 Still is the Night by Joseph M. Martin
4 Hurry Shepherds, Run! by Douglas E. Wagner
5 Mary, Did You Know? by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene
6 Freedom is Coming by Traditional South African
7 Gaudete arr. Jeff Beck
8 In a Manger by Zachary Unke
9 O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen
10 Betelehemu by Babatunde Olatunji and Wendell Whalum, arr. Barrington Brooks
11 Hallelujah Chorus by G.F. Handel
12 Prayers from Compline II by Dale A. Witte

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Parent/Student Orientation Day 2015 Handouts

Now that most of WLA classes are on Google Classroom, the following links are provided Parent Orientation Night 2015.

Block 2 & 3 - Music Technology: Syllabus
Block 4 - Traveling Choir: Syllabus, *NEW in 2015* Choralfest Information
Block 5 - Music Theory: Syllabus
Block 7 - Concert Choir: Syllabus

In addition to the syllabi above, on the student's orientation day, this document, Orientation Day 2015 - Handouts, was given out to each student, summarizing the syllabus and procedures for each class I teach.

For the WLA Fine Arts Calendar, subscribe on WLA's calendar page by clicking on the Google Calendar button at the bottom right corner of the calendar.

You may "Like" the WLA Traveling Choir Facebook page and follow them on Twitter at @TCWLA.

Sign up for Traveling Choir Remind alerts by texting @dwitt to 81010 on your mobile phone. You can also sign up for email alerts. Download the Remind instructions here.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

"I Believe" - WLA Theme Song 2015-2016

Click here for PDF scores and and mp3 recording.

The WLA theme passage for the 2015-2016 school year is from Acts 1:8 "You will be my witnesses."  As I've been thinking about that passage and pondering how this year's theme song will go, one thing has stood out for me: the verb tense.  Jesus was speaking to his disciples over 2000 years ago as he was about to ascend into heaven.  He told his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come on them in Jerusalem so that they would be his witnesses after He was gone.  For them, all the action was going to be in the future: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the chance to speak of Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles.

But are we waiting to be Jesus' witnesses too?  Will we only be God's witnesses in the future?

I contend that what was in the future for Jesus' disciples is in the present for us Christians: we are Jesus' witnesses right now.  We who have been baptized have received the same Holy Spirit's power and faith that the disciples were given. Our Great Commission to go into the world, baptizing and preaching in God's name, has been with us as long as we've been alive. I wanted to impress this fact on the WLA high school students by changing the tense of the verb to the present ("we are His witnesses") in this year's theme song.

I also have been pondering how we are witnesses for Jesus.  What does a witness do at an accident scene? They tell the authorities what they have seen and heard.  They tell the truth.  They say what they know.  How do we witness for Christ? We say who he is.  We say what he has done.  We state the facts clearly from God's Word and let his Word be the authority for our witness.

So it was with the lyrics for this year's theme song.  I tried in the refrain to plainly state who God is: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each verse is a very simple exposition on the chief act of each person of the Trinity.  The bridge is the comforting passage from Matthew 10:32 where Jesus tells us that if we witness for him, he will be our witness to his heavenly father that we have been his witnesses on earth.

May this year's theme song be a blessing to anyone who sings it or hears it.  I give my permission for it to be used without copyright restriction in any of the churches of the WLA Association.  Any other people who would like to use it, I ask that you email me to ask permission to use it.

Thank you and God's blessings!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

WLA Spring Concert 2015

The 2015 WLA Spring Concert will go live at 7:00 PM CDT (GMT-5) Sunday, May 17, 2015. Click here for the concert program.
Live streaming video by Ustream

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2015 State Finalist's Recital

Everyone is invited to the State Finalist's Recital, Wednesday, April 22, 2015 night at 6 PM in the WLA Choir Room.  Sixteen events are going to State Solo Ensemble this Saturday at UW-Oshkosh and UW-Platteville by WLA students and this recital is your only chance to hear them all in one location! In addition, the Academy Kids will perform four a cappella pieces throughout the recital that they will be also be performing this Friday at the reception for the MPTC Culinary Arts program’s 2015 Gourmet Dinner.  Come enjoy a night of good music and share in the musical talents given by God to our students!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

State Solo Ensemble Schedules 2015

Click here for WLA's 2015 WSMA State results from UW-Oshkosh and UW-Parkside.

For the first time ever, WLA has students at two different state sites:

More information about the UW-Oshksoh State site can be found here.

More information about the UW-Platteville State site can be found here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

WLA Traveling Choir 2015-2016 Audition Materials

Students of Winnebago Lutheran Academy who desire to sing with WLA Traveling Choir in the 2015-2016 school year must audition between April 21-23 and Apr. 27-May 1, 2015.  To be eligible for WLA's Traveling Choir, students must have sung in a WLA choir for one year or have the consent of Mr. Witte.

1. Click here to sign up for a 15-minute audition time slot on Google Calendar.
  • Choose any available time slot which works for your schedule.
  • Type your name into the "What" field, replacing what I have typed there.
  • If you need to change or delete your appointment time, go to your own Google calendar (click on the Rubic's cube button on the top right corner of the page and choose "Calendar"). Go to the day and date that you reserved and click on your appointment on your calendar. Look for "Going?" on the bottom of the popup and click on "Delete".  Then go back to the appointment link in #1 above and choose a different time slot.

2. Click to see the 2015-2016 audition requirements (Google Doc).

3. Click to download America the Beautiful:
Soprano 1 (PDF) | Soprano 1 (Noteflight)
Soprano 2 (PDF) | Soprano 2 (Noteflight) 
Alto 1 (PDF) | Alto 1 (Noteflight)
Alto 2 (PDF) | Alto 2 (Noteflight)
Tenor 1 (PDF) | Tenor 1 (Noteflight)
Tenor 2 (PDF) | Tenor 2 (Noteflight) 
Bass 1 (PDF) | Bass 1 (Noteflight)
Bass 2 (PDF) | Bass 2 (Noteflight)

4. Audition piece: God So Loved the World (from "The Crucifixion") by John Stainer
(Choral Score PDF) "God So Loved the World" (from "The Crucifixion") by John Stainer.
(Noteflight Score) "God So Loved the World" (from "The Crucifixion") by John Stainer

5. Sightreading: At the audition you’ll be asked to sight sing three short exercises (rhythm, major, minor) to help determine your level of musicianship. You may use solfege (do, re, mi) or “la” but solfege is prefered.  Takadimi syllables may be used for the rhythm exercise. Sight reading examples may be found at Indiana Choral Directors Association - All-State Honor Choir Sight Reading Examples

6. Fill out the following form before your audition:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Vote for WSMA Class A Concert Festival Selections

The Flyway District Concert Festival is March 25, 2015.

1. View the Youtube Playlist: WSMA Event 1000 - A Cappella Standard Repertoire
2. Consult the 2014-2015 WSMA Festival Music List (Event 1000)
3. Vote below for your favorite piece from this list by Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015.