Sweet Harmony: Choral Combination



Elsie Denton

Music is rarely dull, but on Sunday November 18, Colgate’s choral ensembles pooled their talent in a concert that was varied and beautiful.

According to choir member junior Amy Hill, A Choral Collage was designed to showcase a rich array of musical styles. The program included pieces from the far reaches of the world such as China, Spain and Germany.

The musical selections also spanned time periods. The earliest song, “La, la, la, je ne l’ose dire,” was a Renaissance piece by French composer Pierre Certon from the 1500s; the most recent was “Zion’s Walls,” composed by Aaron Copland and arranged for voice by Glenn Koponen.

The most unusual piece in the concert was “The Flowing Stream,” a Chinese folk song from the Yunnan province that had been arranged for choir by Chen Yi, according to Hill.

“You don’t often hear Western choirs sign in Chinese,” Hill said. “It was interesting both harmonically and in the variety of the language.”

The wide range of musical styles and languages in A Choral Collage should not be taken lightly. Each language incorporates a different range of sounds and harmonic patterns producing a unique acoustic effect.

“You can sing a song in translation, but it changes the feel,” Hill said. “A good composer in voice music will shape the music around the words.”

In order to assist those audience members who were not multilingual, English translations of all the songs were also provided in the program.

“It is really useful for the listener to have the words in English,” Hill said. “You lose something if you don’t know the meaning.”

Working with mix of languages was a challenge for the choral ensembles. Not only did the singers need to learn the correct note for each piece, but they needed to learn how to pronounce the sounds in the different languages. To this end the choirs received assistance from various language interns: Bianca Wiedensohler, Native-Speaker German, and Delphine Belleney, the French Intern. Language students within the choirs stepped up to assist with the pronunciation in the Spanish and Chinese pieces.

The final element that added depth to the concert was the combined performance of Colgate’s three choral ensembles: the Chamber Singers, the Women’s Singers and the Concert Choir. Each choir sang several short pieces. This allowed the concert to focus on a much broader range of musical styles while still maintaining quality, a feat that would have been difficult for a single choir to pull off.

In addition, each choir approaches music from a different angle. The Concert Choir, the largest of the three ensembles at 39, can play with a wider range of melodies while the Chamber Singers, a small, mixed choir, takes a more intimate approach. The Women Singers work with pieces in a narrower range of octaves and harmonies.

Each choir practiced for the concert separately, so November 19 was the first time they were able to appreciate the concert in full.

“I think the concert went well and that there was a good crowd,” Hill said, a member of the Concert Choir. “It was good to hear what the other choirs had been doing.”

With their second semester concert out of the way, Colgate’s choir ensembles are now turning their attention to the Lessons and Carols service that will be on December 7 in the Colgate Memorial Chapel at 7:30 p.m.