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Choir Hopefuls Vie For 5 Spots
by Kendra Baker | Sep 6, 2013 11:47 am
Posted to: Arts & Culture, Music
Judith Loukides, of Guilford, belted out “O Magnum Mysterium,” seeking to land a spot as a soprano in the New Haven Oratorio Choir—and into a friendly community that extends beyond the sanctuary of its rehearsal space in an East Rock church.
Loukides, who’s 55, showed up Wednesday at the Church of the Redeemer at the corner of Cold Spring Street and Whitney Avenue in the East Rock neighborhood to audition for the New Haven Oratorio Choir (NHOC).
Loukides (pictured) said she wasn’t nervous as she sang—she had auditioned for many choirs before. She stuck around that evening for the NHOC’s first open rehearsal of the season.
“I wanted to make sure the director knew what he was doing,” said Loukides, who was a music major in college. “I’ve been singing in choirs most of my life, but the choir I’m in right now is very inexperienced and I was feeling like I needed to be in a choir that had more experience.”
Fortunately for Loukides, the NHOC, which is a membership-driven community organization, has been around since 1963. She said it was that experience that made her want to join the choir.
One by one, women and men in their mid-30s to 80s made their way into the sanctuary of the church Wednesday for the 8 p.m. rehearsal.
The first of two open rehearsals this September, Wednesday night’s event drew certified choir members as well as a few visitors. The open rehearsals give people the opportunity to check out the choir if they are unsure if they want to audition, said Daniel Shaw, 37, of New Haven, who has been the choir’s music director for the past three years. The open rehearsals also give people like Loukides a chance to get a feel for the group.
Michael Cocchi, 44, of Wallingford, has been a member of NHOC for over five years. He said although he originally joined the choir because the rehearsal schedules fit well with his own, he has remained with NHOC also because of the people.
“In other choirs I’ve been in, you walk in, you sing and then you walk out, and you don’t really get a sense of community or collaboration. This one is a friendlier, more welcoming choir where we do things together outside of rehearsals,” said Cocchi, who is a director of content rights management at ESPN. “This has been the only choir that I can remember where at the end of rehearsal, it’s not like everyone just goes their separate ways. It’s more like, ‘Hey, let’s head out to Archie Moore’s and get dinner and drinks’ or something like that.”
Since NHOC joined forces with the current music director, Shaw, said Cocchi, there has been more one-on-one communication between choir members and the director. Shaw helps to pinpoint what sounds wrong and what needs extra attention—a method Cocchi referred to as “one-on-one vocal-blend coaching.”
“I’ve sung in choirs that have had 100 to 160 people on stage with orchestration, where if you make a mistake, no one’s going to hear it,” said Cocchi. “We [NHOC] are made up of about 20 people and we do a number of pieces with minimum or no accompaniment, so if you make a mistake, it’s going to stick out a lot more. That’s why the vocal blend is so critical and requires a lot more concentration and focus.”
As music director, Shaw said his job is to “ultimately make the audience happy and to keep the singers happy.” His goals for the NHOC this year include defining and building the choir’s sound through “raw techniques, such as just basic tuning and tone,” as well as “conveying performances with as much of the appropriate emotional impact as possible.”
The NHOC also hosts a composition competition, in which composers enter to win money and have their pieces performed and recorded in concert.
“One reason for the competition is to help living composers get heard and have a reason to write,” said Shaw.
This season, the choir will perform a winter concert, called “Ceremony of Carols Old and New,” which will include Benjamin Britten‘s “A Ceremony of Carols,” new carols from the choir’s composition competition, and several classics. The choir will also have a spring concert, in which members will sing Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s “All-Night-Vigil.”
The NHOC will be holding its second round of auditions for the 2013-14 season at the Church of the Redeemer on Sept. 11, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Shaw said about five people will be selected to join the choir this year. He encouraged people to try out.
“If you let a fear of auditioning interfere with what you want to get into, you will regret it,” said Shaw. “Just go for it.”
Tags: choir, auditions, New Haven Oratorio Choir
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