Even with the simultaneous approach of frosty weather and first semester finals, some students on campus are raising their voices in lively song. Tomorrow and on Sunday, the Bowdoin Chamber Choir will perform their last concert of the semester at 3 p.m. in the Chapel.
"This concert is special in that it's very eclectic," said Professor of Music and Chamber Choir Director Robert Greenlee. "You'll hear lots of different styles of music—lots of different vocal colors in a great acoustic space. It's a chance to get to hear your peers do something really well."
The choir is indeed talented—this year especially, considering half of the students are new to the choir.
"What's striking about this choir is how quickly they've been able to gel, how they've become an ensemble that works well together," said Greenlee.
But attaining their harmonious sound did not come without hard work.
"The first thing we had to do was get to know each other and find a common language for communicating ideas and aesthetic goals," he added.
This took many hours of practice. The choir rehearses for one hour and 20 minutes three or four times a week.
"And we sometimes even have extra rehearsals as we get closer to performances," said choir member Devlin Cole '11. "Robby [Greenlee] also becomes more meticulous with his direction as we approach a concert."
"Our work on the pieces becomes increasingly detailed," added choir member Amy Sham '13. "Robby will have us spend 20 or 30 minutes going over a miniscule section. Sometimes we'll even focus on one note until it is perfect."
Greenlee attributed his thorough directing style to the capabilities of the students in the choir. "It is a very talented and hard-working group," he said. "They've got the brains to improve pretty quickly. And once they start sounding better you start wanting more from them. In order to achieve the right sound, we have to be meticulous about the aesthetic that the music is producing."
The choir's pitch can be attributed to both the students' talent and the relationship of mutual respect that exists between Greenlee and choir members.
"His knowledge is incredible and his ear is phenomenal," said Cole. "But really it is his accessibility that makes him helpful as a conductor."
"He uses really creative analogies so that we can fix our mistakes," added Sham. "He's incredibly approachable which makes a big difference as far as the group dynamic."
Choir member Amanda Gartside '12 echoed the sentiment. "Robby is amazing. He inspires us, is full of energy, and has superb music and teaching talent. He is rather technical in his directing style, but I think he wants us to enjoy ourselves overall."
The hard work put in by both Greenlee and the students will manifest itself this weekend as the choir performs a particularly diverse repertoire of songs.
"This concert is designed more to be a potpourri," said Greenlee. "We're doing a lot of American music, a lot of British music, but there are also two solos in Italian and one piece in Swedish. For some concerts we'll touch on a variety of cultures, but have a similar theme in terms of lyrics, and other concerts we'll focus on one culture. But this concert is all over the map."
"We're doing a large variety of music, but we are doing a lot of folk songs this semester," said Gartside.
"We'll be singing folksy vernacular type music," added Sham. "There are gospel songs, some songs with a 'bread and butter' classical style... [Eric] Whitacre's piece 'Animal Crackers' is more modern."
"There isn't really a theme per se," said Cole, "but all of the songs can be characterized by the purity of their sound."
The choir members spoke about some of their favorite songs that they will be performing.
"I think my favorite is Herbert Howells' 'Magnificat,'" said Sham. "It has a really huge scale and a wide range of expressive character."
Cole and Gartside both cited "Danny Boy" as their favorite.
"It's a classical Irish folksong," said Cole. "My ancestors are Irish and I heard it a lot growing up. It's fun to be in a choral group that does the song so well."
"It might be my favorite choir song ever," added Gartside.
In addition to hearing these favorite pieces, there are many reasons why the choir believes the Bowdoin community should attend the concert.
"We have an engaging program, a very talented choir and talented soloists, and our artist in residence George Lopez will be accompanying on piano," said Greenlee.
"Anyone who is mildly interested in music should enjoy the concert," added Gartside.
Cole spoke about attending the concert as it relates to the expansive concept of what it means to be a Bowdoin student.
"We sound better than we have all semester and this is a great opportunity to hear really good music. It's a part of being at Bowdoin—attending peer performances and appreciating each other's different talents," she said.