The Fall Choral Concert was an amazing performance put on by a collection of choirs here at Rollins College. The concert showcased Rollins Choir, Women’s Choir, Men’s Choir, Women’s Vocal Jazz, and Rollins Singers. Because of the range of choirs performing, there were different types of songs performed, including gospel pieces, folk songs, and even well-known Billy Joel songs. Some of the pieces were accompanied by various talented pianists, while others were performed acapella, adding an extra dimension of awe to the power behind the voices in our choirs.
The performance occurred in the John M. Tiedtke Concert Hall. The dimmed audience lighting, contrasting yellow stage lighting, and the specific trapezoidal structure of the room designed for musical performances, all joined forces to create the romantic and classical intrigue of a live musical performance. Furthermore, with the structure of the room, the voices of the choir were projected into the audience to deliver the loudest and most resonating notes possible. The effect was truly enchanting. In the moment, I even found myself contemplating how lucky I was to go to a school that appreciates the elegance and importance of music, and honors musical tradition with this dignity and caliber.
My level of enthusiasm as an outsider can only be magnified by an actual vocal student. A few of the vocal performers from the concert shared with me their reflections on the night and their overall experience in the chorus program here at Rollins. Alex Pardesi ’17 is a member of the Rollins Choir, Men’s Choir, and Rollins Singers, who has a strong admiration for the program. He expresses that “being in each ensemble, working with each director, and getting to make music in so many different ways with my peers is such a blessing and pleasure for me that words often cannot describe.”
Another student, Alexia Della Valle ‘19, who is a member of the Rollins Choir, Women’s Choir, and Women’s Vocal Jazz , shares that she loves “being in a variety of choirs because it exposes me to so many different kinds of music. Each one highlights a different part of my voice. Whether it’s learning to blend in a Gregorian chant, nailing the 9 in a jazz chord, or adding soul to a gospel piece, I always feel like a well-rounded musician.” The variety is extensive, as seen by the multiple types of choirs available.
The instruction is top-notch as well. Pardesi has extensive appreciation for all of the choral directors. “All [of] our directors in their many ensembles always try to be true musicians and directors, but not dictators. They constantly push and challenge us to always put more into every performance, and never settle for anything but the best music we can make. That characteristic alone combined with all their support, knowledge and guidance towards our amazing students, gives us the unique and amazing opportunity to truly have masterful artistry across our whole department.”
I was sure to capture the reactions of these students on some of the fan favorite performances of the night. Della Valle, performed “And So It Goes,” a Billy Joel hit, with the Women’s Vocal Jazz group. She said that it was one of her favorite pieces to perform, due to her ability to bring “new life and energy to an old favorite. When we were learning it, we had to keep in mind the vulnerability of the song, and bring that out in our performance to evoke emotion in the audience.”
The Rollins Choir performed another emotionally charged song titled, “The Road Home” that certainly evoked emotion from the audience, even to the point of tears. Pardesi commented that “the piece, by the late Stephen Paulus, is such a musically and emotionally diverse piece. We all love that piece, and whether we are singing it at a funeral, as we have, or just as a concert piece, the song always speaks to the heart.” This certainly was one of the most remarkable elements of the night. The sense of emotion and unity felt in the room was vibrant due to the ability of every message to “speak to the heart through the hearts of all of the amazing musicians on stage,” stated Pardesi.
Pardesi perfectly summed up the main foundation behind the power of choral music. “Singing in a choir, or just making music with anyone, is truly one of humanity’s ultimate spiritually driven team sports.”.
The next choral performance will be the highly anticipated Christmas Vespers, which is a candle-lit, Christmas carol celebration that takes place in the Chapel, and is faithfully attended by students and Winter Park member alike.