Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chamber Singers Kick-off tour with Music With A Mission concert - By Elizabeth Richards

The Windham Chamber Singers delighted the crowd in their tour preview performance on March 29th at the North Windham Union Church. The performance was a part of the Music With a Mission series at the church, with proceeds benefitting Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

Dr.  Rick Nickerson, conductor of the Windham Chamber Singers, said that a performance like this is the best example of giving back to the community. “There will be families in Windham who are warm because we sang,” he said. 

The students were excited and proud to be performing in their home community to kick off the tour. “It’s great to be starting off in Windham. We’re not going to have a crowd as supportive as this, or even a crowd as large as this, anywhere else,” said Windham Chamber Singers president Brad Meader. “It’s a really great experience to be able to show what we can do,” he added.  

Emily Gagne, vice president of the group said that the choir puts an emphasis on community and unity, not just among themselves but in the wider community as well. “I think it’s really significant and really important that we put on a performance for the people who support us the most,” she said.

The support of the town was clear.  Just minutes after ticket sales began, the parking lot was full.  “There’s nothing more energizing for the group than seeing a line of people outside waiting to see our concert,” said Meader. “Everyone is so thrilled, we have such a great community to come and support us like that.”

The chamber singers have a stellar reputation, and Saturday’s performance showcased the talent and diversity of the group. The choir displayed great energy and enthusiasm throughout the concert, along with an impressive vocal range. From a haunting chant to an African spiritual, each piece in the first half of the show was performed with animated expression, and the voices of the group blended to create just the right sound. 

The second half of the concert began with a Celtic piece, followed by a beautiful rendition of Caledonia, an Irish song about the love of where we come from. From there, things took a lively turn, with an Irving Berlin medley and two student arrangements that showed the comedic side of the choir.  It’s obvious that the members of the Chamber Singers are no strangers to the stage, and the medleys the students performed were spirited and entertaining. A piece inspired by Stomp and a silly spoof song from Spamalot rounded out the second half, and the choir received a standing ovation.  But they weren’t done yet.  Their final song, a touching rendition of Let There Be Peace on Earth, inspired another enthusiastic round of applause.

The tour is the culmination of a year of hard work. Nickerson said they begin rehearsing for the tour right after Christmas, and this year, the weather has presented some challenges.  Due to storms, the choir lost a lot of rehearsal time.  That didn’t slow them down, however. “The students have really stepped up. They’ve added rehearsal time and met on their own”, he said.  

Meader, who is a senior in his fourth year in the Chamber Singers, said “I think we’re all aware of what needs to happen and what we need to do to get to the performance ready point. So I think if we see something that’s not getting done someone will step up. Usually a lot of people will step up and fill the role that needs to be filled.”  

Gagne added, “I think we can all sort of see what we’re aiming towards and what we want to get to, because when we get there it’s absolutely incredible. I think the want to get there is powerful enough to make us step up and do the work it takes to get there.”

The group leaves on Wednesday, April 2nd for five days of touring. “I think the whole group is just really, really excited,” said Gagne. “Starting in September when the choir first meets, everyone is already talking about tour, and so to be this close is so exciting.” The tour will take the group to New Hampshire, Vermont, and Montreal, Quebec.

Though the evening concerts are the heavily promoted performances, the choir also sings at several schools throughout the tour, sometimes putting on three to four concerts a day. Gagne said she thinks the school performances are some of the most important they do while on tour. “I remember being in third grade and the chamber singers came and performed for us.  I idolized the chamber singers then, and all I wanted to do was be in the group.  They were rock stars to me.  To travel and perform for little children reminds me of what I used to feel,” she said.

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