"This first note you sing, this F, that’s the first time anyone’s going to hear us this academic year," is among the phrases charged with anticipation echoeing around the rehearsal room of the Chamber Singers as they prepare for their upcoming part in the choir concert, “Choral Expressions.”
The Concert Choir, Gospel Choir and Chamber Singers will take on their opening concert of the school year on Tuesday, Oct. 18, offering a diversity of musical compositions including virtuoso, traditional and gospel music.
The concert will kick off with one of ASU’s most elite groups, the Chamber Singers. This selective group of about 25 highly-trained singers, conducted by David Schildkret, professor of Choral Music, will be embracing challenging pieces of unaccompanied choral music from the recent past.
“It’s difficult music and they do it with remarkable finesse; it’s stunning to listen to,” Schildkret said.
Schildkret and the Chamber Singers have been preparing for this introduction to the public since the second week of school and rehearse four times a week for an hour and 15 minutes.
“We were doing a run-through of the chamber singers part of the program and they sang the first thing very beautifully, but I stopped them and said, ‘We need to think about the fact that this first note that you sing is the very first sound that people will hear from the 2016-17 Chamber Singers, and we want them to be blown away’”, he said. "We’re kind of the last groups in the music school to make our debut for this season, and we’re ready."
Derrik Hester, a graduate student studying voice, said he embraces the challenges that come with singing these challenging pieces of music.
“When we approach a hard piece, it’s fun to go through that process," he said. “We literally will just look at a fresh piece of music that we have never sung together, and just sing through it and see what sounds good and what needs work in it."
Hester said the pieces they will be singing are challenging to learn but beautiful when sung.
“We’re singing Eleanor Daley’s ‘Requiem,’ which is a really beautiful piece about death and then we’re singing Schuman’s 'Carols of Death,' which are three really difficult chamber pieces,” he said.
The Concert Choir, conducted by Bartlett Evans, consists of mostly undergraduate students interested in some form of vocal music. The Concert Choir utilizes voice, musical theatre, music education and music therapy majors, along with non-music majors, to form a cohesive group. They will be performing a mix of folk song arrangements and some recent choral pieces.
Sophomore Isidro Melchor, a vocal performance major, will be performing in both the Concert Choir and Gospel Choir in the upcoming concert. He will start off singing “Dawn” with the Concert Choir.
“The Concert Choir is more like a traditional choir, but we’re starting to do more modern pieces,” Melchor said. “I think there’s a lot of really good music and it helps you to relax, and it just helps your well-being; it’s really refreshing.”
The Gospel Choir will take up the rear of the concert, transitioning the tone of the event to a bright, uplifting one. This choir, conducted by Jason Thompson, has been growing in numbers. They went from 12 members to around 80 in just three short semesters.
“Gospel will offer a lot more personal expression and putting your whole self into the performance,” Melchor said. “There’s this one song in Gospel Choir called ‘Safety’ and every time I perform it, it really gets to me because I’m so involved with the music.”
Kathryn Orrett, a music therapy junior, said she feels the reason for the Gospel Choir’s great growth is due to its ability to have an effect on people.
“I think people have just seen how much fun it is and word of mouth gets around The School of Music and around campus," she said. “I’ve heard things from my friends that vary from, ‘Wow this is so much fun, you should join it’ to ‘I was having a really rough time this semester, debating switching out of The School of Music, and this brought my love of music back.’”
Orrett said she enjoys the differences that being in the Gospel Choir encompasses.
“We don’t use sheet music, and we learn basically all of our parts by ear so it’s a really good choir for developing ear training," she said.
For those planning on attending the concert, Orrett said they should anticipate a positive environment.
“Expect a lot of audience participation," she said. “Expect a lot of amazing soloists and just expect a good time.”
Choral Expressions will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at Tempe Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets for the public are available for $15 and free for ASU students.
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