Connecting through choir

Students in the Keene State College Concert Choir performing in the ensemble’s concert on Saturday, December 11 in the Alumni Recital Hall.

KSC’s choral ensembles perform a joint concert

KSC’s Chamber Singers and Concert Choir performed a joint concert on Saturday, December 11. The choral ensembles performed in front of a sold out audience in the Alumni Recital Hall.

Dr. Sandra Howard, music department chair and conductor of Chamber Singers and Concert Choir, described the concert program as “connective.”

“We’re doing so much diverse repertoire, but the generating theme is that we’re doing it in collaboration, and we’ll be able to share it with other people,” Howard said. “With everything being so separate and kind of phoned in on video, just to be in person with people making those kinds of spontaneous decisions, being able to share that vibe from the audience is really going to be special.”

Chamber Singers opened the concert. The ensemble is made up of eight members, all sopranos and altos.

Included in the repertoire for the Chamber Singers was “O, Snow” by English composer Edward Elgar. Music faculty member Dr. Paul Grobey and first-year student Emilia Toth joined the ensemble on violin.

Howard said the addition of the violin made for a change in the ensemble’s sound. “It’s got this great partnership between two violins, piano and the singer. So, it’s very imitative and conversational,” Howard said.

Chamber Singers ended their repertoire with “Where the Light Begins” by composer Susan LaBarr, which Howard described as the group’s “anthem piece.” “It talks about searching and finding that light within yourself,” Howard said.

Other selections performed by the Chamber Singers included “Keep Your Lamps” by American composer André J. Thomas, “Bright Morning Stars” by Canadian band The Wailing’ Jennys and “Adoramus the” by Renaissance composer Orlando di Lasso.

After a ten-minute intermission, KSC’s Concert Choir took the stage. The 29-member ensemble performed seven pieces that span across time periods and languages.

“We’re singing in Italian, Latin, in a Swahili dialect, English and German, so it’s just all over the place, really trying to stretch them culturally and vocally this semester,” Howard said.

The Concert Choir opened with an Italian piece titled “I gondolieri” by 18th century composer Gioachino Rossini. Howard elaborated more on the piece, “It’s about this gondolier in Venice paddling through the lagoons, so I would say that’s been a big challenge for them; they had fun with that.”

This semester, senior Alyssa Becker joined as the student conductor for Concert Choir. Becker conducted the piece “Sure on this Shining Night” by American composer Morten Lauridsen.

Becker said the piece is “polyphonic,” meaning each vocal part is distinctly different and, at times, singing at different rhythms. This gave Becker practice in concise conducting. “It’s given me a lot of great practice in cuing different parts, in being really from in my conducting and how I’m doing things and also being very clear and concise in my gesture,” Becker said.

While this is Becker’s first semester as a student conductor for the choirs, she has been a member of the ensembles throughout her time at Keene State.

“I’ve really enjoyed being up in front of my peers, and being able to be the director,” Becker said. “I also have really enjoyed the musical experience.”

The Concert Choir also performed “Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down,” arranged by Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory. Howard described the piece as, “a really highly rhythmic spiritual that has a monster piano part. We’ve been working really hard on that.”

The choir also performed a choral arrangement of Coldplay’s “Fix You,” “The Ground” by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo and “Ubi Caritas” by French composer Maurice Durufé.

Howard emphasized the idea of connecting audiences with the concert through the diverse repertoire as she said, “I think, hopefully, the concert program will just stretch people in different ways, and they’ll walk out of there feeling like they connected to something.”


Caitlin Howard can be contacted at


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