This Saturday, Studzinski Recital Hall will fill with melodious voices as the talents of the Bowdoin Chamber Choir and Bowdoin Chorus are exhibited for the first time this year in the Homecoming Choral Concert.
The Chamber Choir, conducted by Professor of Music Robert Greenlee, will perform part of its new repertoire, which Greenlee said "is all about nature, both flora and fauna," and features notable pieces such as "Go, Lovely Rose" and "The Pasture." Students will perform eight pieces of French, English and American origin that showcase the talents of student soloists, who have been preparing pieces since the start of term.
The Choir is composed of 30 members, most of whom have been with the choir for multiple years.
Greenlee said of this year's choir, "we have a crew of experienced singers, augmented by some very fine newcomers."
For Greenlee, "the primary goals in creating a choral choir are maximum flexibility of volume, blend among the individual timbres, and a balanced resonance across the harmonic spectrum."
Saturday also marks Greenlee's first Bowdoin performance after returning from a two-year leave at a large state university.
"We're thrilled to have Robby back," said K.C. Maloney '10, one of the concert's soloists.
"I'm still learning every day from Robby," Maloney said. "He keeps it really challenging and interesting."
Following a brief intermission, the Bowdoin Chorus will perform under the direction of Senior Lecturer of Music Anthony Antolini '63. The Chorus has 60 members, including students, faculty, area choristers and one high-school singer; seven first years are new to the group this year and have "made a wonderful improvement in the sound."
Antolini said the chorus "sings mostly large-scale works that demand lots of singers."
Accordingly, this Saturday's performance will feature the first six movements of Sergei Rachmaninoff's "All-Night Vigil," followed by American composer Kirke Mechem's "Birthdays: Round Numbers."
"All Night Vigil" falls under Antolini's specialty of Russian choral music; the piece was derived mainly from the evening worship services of the Russian Orthodox Church and was first performed in 1915. While only some of the movements will be sung this week, the complete piece is on the program for the chorus' December concerts.
Mechem's "Birthdays" is a comedic undertaking—the composer took words from various birthday cards and set them to music, "starting with a greeting to a 10-year-old named Bridget 'who's found her way to double digits,'" said Antolini, quoting lyrics from the song. The song is certainly a crowd pleaser, but Antolini said "the words are hilarious but hard to pick out because all the songs are in the form of rounds."
"It's important for the audience to read the words in the program as we sing the songs," he added.
In addition, the traditional "Raise Songs to Bowdoin," as well as a revived "Bowdoin Beata" will be sung.
According to Antolini, the singing of "Bowdoin Beata" was a beloved tradition while he was at the College.
"When I was a student I sang in the Meddies and the all-male Glee Club, and we sang this song all the time. Fraternity pledges were also required to learn it by heart," he said.
In subsequent years, however, the song was banned for its many references to drinking.
"I returned to Bowdoin in 1992 to become the Director of the Bowdoin Chorus," said Antolini. "Unfortunately, the President of the College at the time, Bob Edwards, objected strenuously to a College song that invoked drinking. I was asked in no uncertain terms not to perform the song or to change the words entirely."
Though Antolini said that he tried changing the words, the song did not catch on as the previous version had.
"I tried to comply by completely rewriting the song with such things as 'so let's sing, sing, hear it ring...'," Antolini said. "The Chorus and the Meddies were totally scornful of this bowdlerized Bowdoin song so I dropped it."
Though in recent years the Meddies have been singing the original "Bowdoin Beata," this weekend will be the first time the Bowdoin Chorus has pulled the song from the vault since its ban.
The caliber of the performers and the repertoire ensures that the Homecoming Choral Concert will be a highlight of the weekend for the entire Bowdoin community. The performances are a reflection on the strength of the music department and the dedication and depth of its members.
Greenlee said, "at Bowdoin, it is absolutely delightful, because the students are willing to explore new sounds in their voices and discover the beauty of a wide variety of musical styles."
The Homecoming Choral Concert will be held on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Studzinski Recital Hall. The Chamber Choir performs four times per semester, and the Bowdoin Chorus will be performing during Parents' Weekend, also in Studzinksi.
-Gemma Leghorn and Anya Cohen contributed to this report.