Radio station WNIC 100.3 has been playing Christmas music since early November, but Eastern Michigan University’s Chamber Choir and University Choir the joined together to share and sing Christmas songs for students to enjoy at the Light and Life concert.
The concert, which was held at Pease Auditorium Sunday, was conducted by EMU choral activities and vocal education professor Beth Everett, and included songs like “Veni,” “Sancte Spiritus” from movement IV of Morten Johannes Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna” and John Rutter’s “Gloria.” While the concert was free and Learning Beyond the Classroom credit approved was great, Everett really stressed the impressiveness of the two choirs coming together.
In a video interview conducted by Shayla McDermott, a music therapy student, Everett said, “I’ll tell you what, I’ve never seen two choirs work harder to put together a performance.”
Of course the choirs would want to work hard, being that their goal was to bring light to people’s lives.
Jaylon Sims, a sophomore music education major, said, “The message of the concert [was] just to lift everyone’s spirit. Some people go through the holiday season and don’t really have families at all and they rely on the community to be their family. I really wanted people to know that there are great things happening at EMU.”
While the concert was specifically aimed to provide holiday cheer, the audience members were not the only ones to benefit. Ashley Gokey, one of the performers, said, “I auditioned for choir, and I absolutely love it and it counts as part of our performance credits.”
Another benefit to the members of the choirs is the experience. Sean O’Connor, a senior studying vocal music, is a member of the Chamber Choir.
“We just like to view the Chamber Choir as a leadership opportunity,” O’Connor said.
As part of learning about leadership, O’Connor was recently appointed marketing intern and helped to gain acknowledgment from the students at EMU. One aspect of gaining the attention of EMU students is offering music that they could be interested in.
“We just want to make sure that everyone understands that choral music should be accepted by everybody,” O’Connor said.
He said that this includes offering music other than classical, such as jazz and contemporary in some of their other concerts.
In the Life and Light Concert, the choirs combined the Latin based songs with some well-known, but perhaps not typical, Christmas songs. For instance, the University Choir sang “We Three Kings,” while the Chamber Choir sang a medley of “Oh Come Oh Come Emanuel” and “Joy to the World.” They even went a step further to prepare the audience for the holidays by singing a song about Hanukkah called “S’Vivon” which translates to dreidel.
O’Connor said, “It was a nice way to bring in the holidays without singing all the typical songs.”
The only problem with the concert was the stress of preparation. Between the fall concert and the Light and Life concert, there were only a few weeks for the choirs to prepare.
“This time, Dr. Everett chose rather challenging music and it’s very difficult to get both ensembles together,” O’Connor said.
Sims said, “When you first get the music it’s very daunting because it’s so detailed. The first half of the concert was just one piece and it was 30 minutes alone.”
Not only were there the two choirs to try to get together to practice, but there were also percussionists and brass players who participated in many of the pieces. Trombones, trumpets and a tuba replaced the typical accompanist George Cullinan. Though O’Connor said, “He’s just a terrific musician all together,” in regards to Cullinan, both O’Connor and Everett were excited to have different instruments joining the choirs for the Light and Life concert.
In order to make up for all the different musicians not being able to practice together, they needed to perfect their parts separately. As part of the music program at EMU, students are expected to practice two hours a day in the music rooms at Alexander Music Building. The requirement was no different when it came to preparation for the concert.
A lot of this involved spending extra time working with Everett.
Sims said, “Dr. Everett is amazing with people. She can connect to people regardless of what their background is.”
According to Sims, this helped the choir participants due to her large amount of dedication.
Apparently, all the practice and preparation paid off. At the end of the concert, the combined choirs and musicians received a standing ovation from the audience.
“It was very refreshing to me to see the standing ovation at the end,” O’Connor said. “It wasn’t expected on my part, but it was very refreshing.”