“At the end of the day, it’s not just about singing,” says Men’s Chorus Director Craig Roberston. “It’s about having a community to go to and the sense of not being alone.”
To each of the directors of the Men’s Chorus, Women’s Chorus and Collegiate Chorale, the community formed through these choral ensembles is integral as they prepare for their free concert on Sunday, Nov. 4, in Grusin Music Hall.
“We live in a time of profound isolation, and we see the way choral music brings people together,” says Collegiate Chorale Assistant Conductor Daniel Parks. “We’ve only been rehearsing for a little over a month, but it already feels like there’s a community created in our choir and the other ones. Making art and music outside of yourself makes impactful social connections that bring groups like this together.”
The majority of students that participate in these non-auditioned ensemble groups are not required to do so, as the three groups are formed of students of all majors who simply want to sing. “We have football players, engineers, opera singers and even a few older gentlemen who still love to be part of the chorus,” says Assistant Director of the Men’s Chorus Jackie Pennell.
“Most people have some background in singing, and others don’t, but either way they find it to be a place they can escape from their majors,” says Collegiate Chorale Director Aaron Harp. “They come to experience art and meet new people that they may not have met any other way.”
The choirs have been preparing for their November concert since the beginning of the semester and are excited to be sharing their pieces with audience members. The works on the program encompass diverse repertoire and will showcase various students from all academic backgrounds.
The Men’s Chorus will perform a handful of pieces, including “Tell My Father,” a Beethoven work, a choral piece based on a poem found in a German basement during the Holocaust and a surprise piece that Robertson has yet to choose. “We want the audience to leave thinking, ‘Wow, that was amazing,’ and feel the emotion that the students are conveying. A piece can be sung technically perfectly, but if it’s sung without any emotion, the performance can become forgettable,” says Robertson.
The Women’s Chorus will perform a set titled “Origins,” which includes a variety of unique pieces that audience members may not have heard before. The set includes an American shape note tune from Kentucky, a Wichita Native American tribal lullaby, a piece from the African American spiritual tradition and a Colombian folk song. “It is a wonderful feeling to see the light in the singers’ and listeners’ eyes following a performance when they have experienced a variety of emotions, cultures, history and texts together,” says Co-Director of the Women’s Chorus Emilie Bertram.
“Because the Collegiate Chorale is a non-auditioned group, we incorporate teaching students how to sing in a choir and it ends up being a transformative experience for the students as they learn to make music with a community,” says Parks. The Collegiate Chorale performance will include gospel, classical and traditional African American spiritual pieces.
“I hope the singers gain confidence, agency, joy and awareness through the process of preparation and performance,” says Co-Director of Women’s Chorus Corie Brown. Audience members are in for a treat, as these students look forward to sharing their spirit and community through their music.
The CU Choirs performance, featuring the Men’s Chorus, Women’s Chorus and Collegiate Chorale, is Sunday, Nov. 4, at 7:30 p.m. in Grusin Music Hall. The concert is free and open to the public; for more information, visit cupresents.org.