With the honey-toned leaves and fresh breezes of fall undeniably upon us, there seems to be no better way to celebrate autumn than to spend an afternoon listening to the mellifluous sounds of the Bowdoin Chamber Choir and Chorus taking place tomorrow as part of Homecoming Weekend.
The Chorus is composed of 60 Bowdoin students and community members, and is directed by Senior Lecturer in Music Anthony Antolini '63.
The Chamber Choir, which contains 30 student singers, is directed by Chair of the Music Department Robert Greenlee.
"We've put a lot of work into this concert, so it should be a fantastic show," said choir member Chris Li '11.
Li has been a member of the Chamber Choir since he was a first year and has been "fortunate enough" to study under Greenlee as an assistant conductor for the past three semesters.
He describes his role as challenging.
"I spend hours practicing my conducting in front of a mirror with an iPod looking silly, but when my nerves kick in during a performance, having that muscle memory really helps," said Li.
Li attributes his personal fulfillment and the overall success of the choir to Greenlee's guidance.
"Robby [Greenlee] is so well-versed in directing the choir," said Li. "He directs us to sing higher or lower, brighter or darker—it's vocabulary I am still learning and Robby has been a great resource in terms of introducing me to this world of conducting."
And in Li's opinion, Greenlee does much more than teach technicalities.
"Having Robby as a coach, is, in itself, one of the main reasons I and many others enjoy the choir so much," said Li. "He teaches us to appreciate music and, above all, to reconnect with ourselves. After a long Bowdoin day the time we spend regrouping in Chamber Choir is very meaningful."
But while Li and others find solace in the choir, the rehearsals are also quite demanding.
"We meet Monday through Thursday for an hour and a half each day," explained Li. "The rehearsals are quite focused. We seldom sing a piece through start to finish—there is a lot of practicing and re-practicing different sections which, of course, pays off in the end."
Another challenge for the choir this year is the loss of last year's senior choir members.
This year, about half of the choir is composed of new students.
"This means we needed to spend more time on organization and blending so that we could attain the sound we were aiming for," said Li. "But it seems the new students have met the challenge successfully. The new singers have been doing exceptionally well. We are all very impressed."
For tomorrow's concert, Li will conduct two pieces, both of which he spoke about excitedly.
"I'm conducting a Gaelic piece which will feature soloist Katie Kinkel '13," he said. "Katie really knows how to rock out on her Gaelic solos."
The other piece he described as beautiful, but quite difficult.
"It is a piece called 'Magnificat' by the British composer Herbert Howells. It is particularly challenging because of its irregular rhythms and metric changes," he said. "It's a sort of conducting test for me. We're opening the program with it, so I'm a little nervous."
In addition to these pieces, the choir will also perform four pieces by composer Eric Whitacre.
"[Whitacrecomposes film scores, so his music is not only beautiful but very accessible to audience members," said Li.
According to Antolini, the Chorus also has an exciting selection of songs picked out for their concert.
"The chorus will sing nine German waltz tunes (in German) by the 19th century composer, Johannes Brahms," said Antolini. "We're also performing a Chinese song by Nathan Kolosko and a Taiwanese poem by Xie Tong."
Antolini's song choices are quite characteristic of his love for multicultural music.
"My favorite part [of chorus] is getting to sing interesting new pieces," said chorus member Brian Lohotsky '11, "Tony [Antolini] loves picking out diverse music for us to perform."
For the highest energy number, the chorus will sing a Zulu folksong.
"It translates into English as 'We are singing, for the Lord is our light,'" said Antolini. "It features David Phipps '14, Bridget Connolly '14 and Diana Lee '14, Viet Nguyen '14, and Robbie Harrison '14. We'll also sing a spiritual called 'Keep your lamps!' with conga drums."
Because it is Homecoming Weekend, the program will conclude with the College's own song "Hail, Black & White!" and the alma mater "Raise Songs to Bowdoin."
"The audience is always invited to sing along on these numbers and they usually do with gusto," said Antolini.
"We are hoping that a lot of alumni and current students will be in the audience and will sing along to these songs," said Li. "It is always the audience's energy that makes this concert particularly fun."
The Concert will take place tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Studzinski Recital Hall.