Music unites different cultures

Keene State Chamber Singers bring cultural harmonies to the Redfern

Six different languages and musical influence from various centuries were incorporated into Keene State College’s Chamber Singers second performance of the year on Saturday, December 5, at the Redfern Arts Center.

Stand-In Director Matthew Leese said that this group can learn new pieces of music extremely fast, no matter how hard the material.

“This type of smaller choir and intense experience as a college student will be the best choir they ever sing with,” Leese said. He continued, “We try to memorize a lot of the pieces so that they actually stay in their brains for the rest of their life, especially when you are in a larger choir for people who don’t have as strong musical skills. I can throw anything at them and they can learn it.”

Leese said that the audition process for the group is rigorous, but he did his best to encourage all vocalists to try out.

Colton McKraken / Equinox Staff

Colton McKraken / Equinox Staff

“I kind of pounded the pavement to encourage the best people to sing but a lot of people actually rolled over from last year,” Leese said. He continued, “They came in and sang me a solo and I gave them sight reading to see how high or low their voice is and also to see if they can fit in with the people around them as well. Sometimes you can have a really amazing instrument but it just doesn’t blend well.”

Adding to the stress of auditions, The Chamber Singers also use a different type of vocal method known as “shape singing.” Breaking the boundaries of a traditional choir, shape singing uses four shapes and four words that coincide with them instead of being based off of the pitch scale that most are comfortable with. This allows the singers to memorize the shape instead of the pitch, making sight-singing an easier task.

KSC sophomore and vocal performance major Molly McCoy said that becoming a part of The Chamber Singers was a no-brainer.

“I am a music student majoring in voice so when I heard about it [The Chamber Singers] through the department I instantly wanted to audition,” McCoy said.

McCoy said that she rehearsed constantly throughout the semester in order to properly prepare for last Saturday’s performance.

“It takes a lot of time for us to prepare a concert like this,” McCoy said. “We have rehearsal for two hours twice a week and I rehearse maybe twenty minutes a day at least depending on the week.” The performance was very audience-engaging due to the different song choices and choreography, especially for those who consider themselves musicians.

KSC junior and double major with Holocaust and genocide studies and geography, Kathleen Dougherty said she came to the event to support her boyfriend, but has been influenced by music all her life.

“I am a very big music person so it [the performance] flows very well for me,” Dougherty said. “Being a genocide major I really like different cultures and original languages and we actually learn about the Maori people mentioned in the last song. That was really interesting for me, I loved that piece.”

Olivia Belanger can be contacted at

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