On Saturday, February 23, Chorale will be joining the Anderson Symphony Orchestra for a concert in York Performance Hall. There will be two shows, one at 3:30 p.m. and another at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the shows are $10 for students and $30 for others.
Dr. Richard Sowers, professor of music and director of choirs in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, also serves as the director of the Anderson Symphony Orchestra.
Sowers has been at AU as a professor of music for 35 years, and he realizes that most AU students aren’t aware that the City of Anderson has a professional orchestra.
“Their home is at the Paramount Theatre in Anderson,” Sowers said. “The orchestra just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and I think this is my 30th year with them. AU has paired up with them many times over those years.”
York Performance Hall provides both ensembles a space to perform here on campus, but they haven’t always had that space.
“We take advantage of the great acoustics and the great set-up where there’s that choral terrace that has been designed right behind the stage for a choir to sit,” Sowers said. “We’re really happy that we have this space to be able to put the orchestra and choir together.”
Sowers said that they try to incorporate a theme into every performance. The theme for this concert is the music of Great Britain. The groups will be showcasing songs by various British composers.
“We have a piece by Peter Warlock called ‘Capriol Suite,’” Sowers said. “It’s not ancient music, but it is written in the style of some ancient music that uses baroque dances in a suite.”
They will also be performing pieces by Edward Elgar that showcase the stringed instruments.
Sowers said that he has been wanting to do Flos Campi by Ralph Vaughan Williams for a very long time, and he finally has the opportunity to do it.
“It’s a very unusual piece,” Sowers said. “It was written in 1925, which was right after the first world war and before the second world war.
“A lot of the composers who were writing music at the time were weary and tired, so they tended to write pieces that were more comforting, beautiful and that expressed a hopefulness. This piece does.”
After the intermission, they will be performing a requiem by John Rutter that will feature solos by Chorale members.
Every song title is in Latin, so Sowers said that they will project words while they are performing so the audience can understand the pieces.
Sowers grew up being involved in band and orchestra where he played the French horn, but he was also in choir. With that background, he has the experience and the knowledge to conduct both groups.
“It’s a lot of fun for me,” he said. “It’s really a great opportunity, and I love being able to work with the groups at the same time.”
Instrumentalists and members of a choir both have different needs when it comes to the conductor.
“Instrumentalists sort of have different kinds of needs like what they need to see from the conductor, but I’m also dealing with very highly skilled professional musicians,” Sowers said.
“Everyone who plays in the ASO is a professional musician; they all get paid for doing what they do.”
Sowers said that the way the choir looks and the fact that they are using words instead of playing instruments makes the experience very different than an orchestra.
“I have this saying that an audience listens to a choir with their eyes,” he said. “The choir has this job of having to communicate those words and feelings.”
Sowers said that Chorale will really benefit from performing pieces with the orchestra.
“There is some really fantastic music that’s been written for both of those performing entities,” Sowers said. “It’s a real treat to be part of that joint activity that goes on. It’s so beautiful to be able to put voices together with an orchestra.”
Freshman music business major Tramell Velez said that performing with the orchestra will allow them to experience a different type of performance.
“When we went on tour, we just performed with piano or an instrument like an oboe,” Velez said. “This is a bigger and more professional setting.”
Throughout his first year in Chorale, Velez has learned a lot about the balance of dependency in a choir.
“Be dependent on yourself, but at the same time, acknowledge everyone else singing in the group,” he said. “Listen to the group, but also make sure to have your stuff down.”
Junior music education major Micaela Sharman performed with the orchestra in her past years of being in Chorale.
“When I first came here, it was the first time that I had ever performed with an orchestra,” Sharman said. “It was a really eye-opening experience of what music has a potential to be and how big it can be.”
She said that collaborating with other musicians is a really good life skill.
“In one of our pieces, we have choir, orchestra and a viola solo,” Sharman said. “The communication has to be very focused because there are multiple parts that have to come together.”
Chorale’s spring performance will be with the Anderson Symphonic Choir also directed by Dr. Sowers. It will be held on April 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Palladium located in Carmel, IN.