Letter From the A8 MD: Witching Hour and More

Lucy Park ‘20

Editor’s Note: It’s a cappella concert season here at Cornell! Time to shine a light on the Chorus’ own official a cappella subset, After Eight. For more information on this group and its members, visit https://www.cuaftereight.com/.

On October 27, After Eight performed its Fall Witching Hour concert under the theme of Mint Eye (a spin-off of the popular TV show Queer Eye). It was my second concert in the group, but my first as the Musical Director.

One of my responsibilities is choosing the setlist. I really wanted a compilation that reflected the tastes of the entire group. By selecting songs this way, I believe we were able to really put our all into each piece. The final setlist included songs by Earth, Wind & Fire, Sam Smith, Amy Winehouse, Glass Animals, Marina and the Diamonds, and Queen. We tirelessly rehearsed twice a week until two weeks before the concert, when we kicked into high gear and rehearsed every single day (with a wonderful Twilight concert at a week prior). We also performed every song with choreo, which is a novel achievement for us. It was great to perform for our Glorus family and friends and alumni, and I am so proud of every single one of our members. I’m excited to see how much more we will grow from here.

Since I have most of the rest of the semester off after the concert, I wanted to reflect on and share a few things about my experience being Musical Director. My favorite part of being MD is getting to listen to the comments, concerns, and opinions of each member. After each interaction, I feel like we’ve formed a deeper connection between MD and member, and also, more importantly, as a group of friends who like to sing together. I encourage my peers to step up and speak out, since it isn’t just my voice that matters. The biggest challenge that comes with the position, in my opinion, is pushing and motivating the group when everyone is going through prelims, presentations, late nights, etc., including myself. On those days, I try not to push our voices by running songs over and over again, and instead spend rehearsal time on rhythmic unity or other fundamentals of singing in a group. All in all, I am very grateful to be a leader of such strong talented people, and will strive to be a better leader next semester.

Two weeks after our concert was our brother group the Hangovers’ 50th anniversary fall concert! The artistry and sense of unity and brotherhood were off the charts, and the sea of striped rugbies filling Bailey Hall was an unforgettable sight. I believe I speak for After Eight when I say that we are so proud to have such a talented brother group and that we thoroughly enjoyed every second of that concert. Huge kudos to the Hangs’ exec as well (especially now knowing how much work exec puts in for each concert)!

I would like to thank Robert, Steve, the Glorus, and our supportive family and friends for teaching us and/or dealing with us this semester, and deeply hope you will continue to do so in the coming semesters.

With much glorus love,
Lucy Park

Thoughts on Twilight

Kathryn Miller ‘19

The annual Twilight concert always falls on what seems like the busiest week of the semester, when stress and papers are piling up. That week, the last thing I want to do is dedicate my weekend to a concert. Yet somehow, that mindset had completely faded away by the time I walked off the stage in Bailey Hall, replaced by a poignant rush of pride and sense of connection. Looking back on my last Twilight concert as a member of the Chorus, it was the most special concert I've had in my time with the group.

We started off the weekend with a 3 hour rehearsal in Bailey Hall on Friday night. I was running over all the things I had to do before Monday, with music the furthest thing from mind. Suddenly, Robert was introducing the composer of this year's commissioned piece, and Melissa Dunphy was just about the coolest person I've ever met. She approached us with so much energy and genuine excitement, and I felt inspired just by being near her. When she heard us sing her piece for the first time, I expected her to have several suggestions for us; instead, she thanked us for capturing the essence of the piece. 

"It Isn't A Dream" is one of my favorite pieces I've been able to sing at Cornell, and it was an honor to sing it for Melissa and the audience at our Twilight Concert. Thank you, Melissa, for bringing such a wonderful piece to life and giving us the opportunity to introduce it to the world. I'm so proud of the Chorus for doing justice to this piece, and I can't wait for other treble choirs to get to sing it too. Although I wear the white flower of a senior for this year's concerts, I'm still, at heart, that freshman awed to be singing with such talented people, and I grow more grateful every day for everything the Chorus has given me.

Homecoming Reflections

Alina Robin ‘19

The choirs have a tradition of wearing boutonnieres during our fall and spring concerts. Members who are graduating wear white flowers, and those who are not wear red. I had become very accustomed to strolling into the green room before each concert and grabbing my red flower, but not this time. I almost forgot, multiple times, that I would need to fish out a white flower instead. The time had finally come: my senior year, and my final run of concerts.

First up was my final Homecoming concert. This year, however, was a very different experience from previous ones. In the past, Homecoming has been a Glee Club concert. The Chorus has been featured in one piece for each Homecoming concert since I arrived at Cornell, singing up from the balcony of Bailey Hall. This year, the concert became a joint event, with the Chorus performing a full set on stage during the first half of the concert. This was a special year for this to happen because the Glee Club is celebrating its 150th birthday, and it was an honor to get to celebrate with them. It was also exciting to begin the celebrations in anticipation of the Chorus’ centennial in two years.

It’s difficult to truly wrap your head around how long these organizations have existed — both are older than some of Cornell’s colleges. All I know is that over the years, the Chorus and the Glee Club have only grown closer — even just in the time that I’ve been here — and I am incredibly proud of both organizations’ longevity.

One of the songs in the Chorus’ permanent repertoire is “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” We often talk about this idea of an unbroken circle, where we are singing with people who have sung with other people who have sung with other people, and so on back to the beginning, forming an unbroken circle of singers. It’s an exciting time to be here, celebrating this circle of Glee Clubbers as a student now and preparing to celebrate the Chorus as an alum in two years.

Finding my Place in the Chorus

Caroline Dodd ‘20

I joined the Chorus in the spring of the 2017-2018 school year, my junior year. This was a relatively unconventional time frame to join, both because it was the spring semester and because it was so late in my college career. I was overjoyed upon acceptance, but also overwhelmed as I was thrown straight into preparation for the American Choral Director’s Association conference, and then Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion. I had little time until this summer to reflect upon what it truly meant to me to be a part of this organization. I realized that although I was grateful and honored to be one of just two new members accepted in the spring semester, I did not really have a sense of where I, as an individual, fit into the Chorus.

I traveled to the Fall Retreat optimistic about how the ensemble would develop and grow musically, but I truly had no idea how impactful the retreat experience would be. Beyond music rehearsals, retreat provided several opportunities for me to learn much more about the Chorus and my fellow members. I learned about how the Chorus is funded, and suggested my input for the future. I collaborated with a small consort, where I interacted with members old and new, some of whom I did not know well, musically or otherwise. I laughed harder than I had in a long time when each consort performed a silly skit about “a Chorus member’s dream.” Finally, and most importantly, I felt comfortable enough to share my experiences and facets of my identity in an emotional activity called “Who Here.”

Never before have I felt more connected to my fellow Chorus members, the music we sing, and the organization itself. The Chorus prides itself with musical excellence, but I believe that would not be possible without the community of trust and empowerment fostered by the dedicated efforts of our officers and our director. I can now proudly say that I am a member of one of Cornell’s most fiercely vibrant and extraordinarily welcoming organizations.

Retreat, Round Two

Sophie Arzumanov ‘21

A couple of weeks ago, the Chorus went on its annual retreat to Vestal United Methodist Church. Before we departed Ithaca, I remember feeling like the school year was moving so quickly; the new members of the Chorus were already starting to feel integrated, our Homecoming Concert was a only week away, and I already had a prelim in my Electromagnetism class coming up. However, I decided to commit myself to letting all of those thoughts and concerns go and simply becoming immersed in our repertoire and our community.

This was only my second retreat, so my first one is still relatively fresh. I remember that in my freshman year, I thought retreat was a little scary. I already felt behind in my classes, I barely knew these people, and I definitely was still adjusting to living at Cornell; how could I commit an entire weekend to singing faraway? However, after going through it, I knew that the experience had the potential to foster amazing relationships in the group. With my freshman-year apprehensions in mind, I wanted to ensure that I contributed to creating a positive environment so the new members could feel comfortable and grow into the group.

With this mindset and goal, coupled with my experience in the Chorus community, my time on retreat this weekend was, well, truly a retreata refuge, a haven, a sanctuary. This time around, I felt particularly connected with the music. This included the technical stamina that our repertoire demands this year, as well as the emotional meaning behind many of the pieces. I also felt more connected with the spirit of our activities. I felt that I was able to open up more Maggie Lin and Alexis Waite did an amazing job being our Game Masters, and really facilitated an open and fun environment for us this year. Even the skits made a great impact on me; now that I have spent a year in the Chorus, the inside jokes resonated with me more. It felt great to poke fun at ourselves, and to laugh after a long day of rehearsal.

This retreat was very special to me; I came back to campus feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Our Sunday performances were especially moving this year. The community at the Vestal United Methodist Church really does welcome us with open arms, and I am happy to participate in their reflective services and share our music with them. I also came back with a sense of purpose for myself within the Chorus; I am a sophomore now, and I am ready to step up as a leader and encourage others around me to grow as well. I feel closer to the new members and even with some returning members, and I am so happy that this retreat made me so excited for the future of the Chorus.

Audition Advice from a Recruitment Chair

Medina Keita '20

Being one of the Recruitment Chairs for the Chorus has given me a new outlook on the process that goes into gaining new members. Between talking to some students who are 100% certain that they want to audition and trying to sway some that are on the fence about putting themselves out there, I have really learned that the best thing one can have when auditioning for one of our ensembles is a positive attitude. It’s hard to think back to when I was a freshman getting ready to audition for the choral program, but what I can remember is never being afraid of the decision I made to actually go out and do it.

The most important advice I could give to anyone looking to find a choral community here at Cornell is to give it your all and never doubt yourself or your love for singing. The actual audition is so low pressure; there are a few quick vocal warm-ups that last about 5-10 mins which help our directors get to know you and your voice a little bit better. Then the hard part is over! In my experience, as long as you come in with a positive mindset, your abilities will shine through. Whether you’re a classically trained musician or have only been singing in school choirs your entire life, if you have the passion to learn, sing, and learn while singing, you can find a place in our choral department. (For me, that was a spot in the Chorus, and I can’t thank my younger self enough for being courageous enough to take that first step towards finding a community, even though I had only arrived on campus a few days before.)

If there is anything you as a prospective member debating on auditioning should keep in mind, it’s what you want out of your Cornell experience. If you want to be able to find a community of lifelong friends, make an impact on others, to expand your musical abilities, and to travel places you’ve never been before to bring joy to people who wholeheartedly love your sound, then you need to sign up for an audition. Make future you proud of the courage you have now and just go for it. I promise you won’t regret it.

Passion for the Passion

Justine Kim '21

My St. Matthew Passion endeavor was perhaps one of the most memorable and endearing experiences of my life, both in the realm of music and out. Just like Robert pointed out, the time he embarked on this major work was perhaps the happiest period of his life, and it is no doubt the same for me. Not only did I love discovering musical subtleties in the Bach that can only be found by performing the piece, but the opportunities to bond with my fellow Glorus members and develop friendships were incredibly rewarding.

The things that I struggled with most were, believe it or not, outside the music rather than within. The long Wednesday rehearsals during Hell Week and the mental fatigue after Sunday night’s intense and rapid note cramming as Robert flew past each movement. I had trouble arriving to rehearsals early and always ended up embarrassing myself stumbling into the 2nd half of the rehearsals after break, in clear view of everyone.

I always had an eager attitude delving into Bach. Even though I took a break from the Chorus last semester, I was eager to join again and was absolutely thrilled to return because of Bach. I even went to Robert’s office hours to ask about I could fully experience the piece and the things that "I should look out for." Towards the end, my excitement declined on a minor degree, but only from pure exhaustion.

Performing the Bach was not as dreary and painful as I imagined it to be. I expected 3 hours of pure waiting as the soloist would take up the entire performance time and we would stand on our painful heels and in our tight performance attire for the entire duration of the concert. But the Glorus had the most stage time, and I absolutely loved responding to the soloists’ sentiments [i.e. LASS IHN HALTTET]. When we sang with the orchestra, I felt like being bolstered on a musical bed of clouds and hearing our sound soar through Bailey sky – it was a transcending experience.

Now that it is over, I am so excited for the next major work. I’ve developed an attachment to my Glorus friends. I don’t think I’ve had so many friends in my life. I’m just so happy.

ACDA Adventures

Michelle Carfagno '19


I am constantly reminded of how many incredible opportunities the Chorus has given me. The most recent opportunity I was fortunate to have was to travel to Pittsburgh, PA with the Chorus to the American Choral Directors’ Association Conference. The Chorus had been anticipating this weekend for quite some time. We learned of our acceptance back in August, and we were so thrilled considering that out of the 100 or so choirs that applied, we were one of the few to be chosen.

When the day finally came, I was filled with excitement. I was thrilled by the opportunity to go on yet another trip with the Chorus after an extremely successful Gulf Coast Tour and get to know even more Chorus members. We had an early 5:30 AM start to our trip, but everyone was happy to spend more time with one another. Once we arrived in Pittsburgh after a long trip, our day began right away! Some of the highlights of the afternoon were eating lunch with my fellow 2019ers (2019 best class) and watching other participating groups perform in concert before our dinner. It was amazing to see what each group had to offer at the conference. Each of the groups’ sound and repertoire was very different from one another. After dinner, I was fortunate enough to attend a concert put on by Tenebrae, a choir from England and Wales. This performance was unlike any choral performance I had ever seen. The whole performance was coordinated from the lighting to the movement of singers around the entirety of the concert hall. For an hour, I was able to escape and forget about everything else going on in my life.

After the concert, we met up with our amazing hosts for the night! Homestays are one of the best parts of traveling with the Chorus. The couple that hosted us made us feel so comfortable and welcome in both their home and in Pittsburgh. They were also both musicians, so they were very interested in discussing, listening to, and looking at our ACDA pieces. The morning of our concert, they made us an elaborate breakfast and even sent us away with a care package full of goodies! Those goodies came in handy because we had an early start to our performance day!

Now to get to the reason why we came to Pittsburgh in the first place--the performances! The Chorus had two early concerts back to back on Saturday morning. However, even though they were so early, I believe that this is the best that the Chorus has ever sounded in concert. The audience at the ACDA conference was full of musicians that share the same passion for the art of vocal performance as we do, so it was amazing to share our performance with them. I felt myself connecting to each of the pieces in ways I never had before. I finally stopped worrying so much about the notes and rhythms and immersed myself in the music. I also was fortunate enough to have a mini solo in the concert (that was super cool).

After exploring Pittsburgh some more, we boarded the bus once again and made our way back to Cornell. I still find it crazy to think that we were able to do so much in only 42 hours. I will never forget this experience, and I am sure that many other Chorus members will say the same. I am so proud of the Chorus and everything we have been able to accomplish this far. I cannot wait to see what else is in store for us.

Tour Throwback: Sarasota Free Day!

Sydney Hertafeld '18

Today we had a free day at the beach! The bus barely had time to open its doors as we burst out and sprinted to the shore. The first thing I noticed as my feet hit the sand was how incredibly soft it was, like a luxurious blanket soothing my concert-shoe-induced blisters. In the words of Brianna, the Chorus Social Media Chair, “it felt like if flour and sand had a baby”. The more I ran the freer I felt. All of the little aches from long bus rides melted away. The water was a bit of a shock—about ten degrees colder than we were prepared for, but that didn’t stop us from frolicking through the waves, taking majestic beach pictures and having a cartwheel contest that spun out of control and into the water. It was exactly what the chorus needed.

            As beautiful as the beach was, what really made this day was all of the Chorus bonding that I felt throughout the day. People branched out from their usual friend groups to join in on spontaneous yoga sessions in the sand or take a plunge into the icy water or to turn Kennedy into a sand mermaid. I made so many new connections and ended the day looking forward to growing those connections It was truly a day of Chorus love.   

A Thank You to our Tour Manager

Anita Jegarl '18


Behind the scenes of every great Chorus tour is the Chorus Tour Manager. Tour Manager is the kind of behind-the-scenes job in which if everything goes perfectly, their work wouldn’t be noticed at all. This is the case of Kathryn Miller ’19, our Gulf Coast Tour Manager. As a senior applying for jobs, I was looking for coffee shops in which to write cover letters and polish my resume and ended up tagging along with Kathryn a lot. At almost every stop with free time in the middle of the day, Kathryn was in a cafe, either typing away on her phone or calling venues/homestays/caterers. Even during our beach day in Sarasota, Kathryn found a cafe to work in for a little while.

Without a witness, Kathryn’s extra work would have gone unnoticed. I’m glad I could be there to see the hard work she put in. Thank you, Kathryn! Thank you for your dedication to the Chorus which allowed for a great tour with great venues. Thank you for  planning in great free times into the schedule in consideration of our mental health and group morale. Thank you for your sacrifices, both physical and mental, which allowed for a smooth tour.

I hope you get some well-deserved rest!

Growth Mindset

Lauren Conger '19

In my middle and high school years, I assumed people had natural talents in certain areas and these determined each person's successes and failures. Through my course work and experience in college I was introduced to the notion of a growth mindset, which spurred my understanding of the significance of practice.

My choral experience before college consisted of one year of high school choir and Sunday Mass singing. I knew how music worked but had not had much practice. In my first few semesters at Cornell, I sang in the Anabel Taylor Chapel Choir. I learned more about music and sight-reading, to keep going through mistakes, to always watch the conductor, and to sing music that will expand your capabilities as a singer. My semester in the Cornell University Chorale gave me the chance to fine-tune skills such as holding notes out to their full length, breathing and tuning during warm-ups, and staying focused during Friday afternoon rehearsals.

Meanwhile, in my physics education class, I was learning about viewing the brain as a muscle. We were taught to focus on the process of learning rather than the immediate correct results for each practice problem. We supposedly need ten thousand hours of physics to master it, so the best way to encourage understanding in students is to emphasize the necessity of practice.  As I look at the improvement in both my physics and choral skills, I am quite surprised at how far I have come since the beginning of freshman year at Cornell. When I auditioned for Chorus this fall, I was able to see how my singing had changed. I no longer saw singing as a purely natural skill. I understood how practice changes skill sets, and how our abilities are not innate.

In the two and a half months I've been singing with the Chorus, I've already noticed improvements. I now have "bigger ears" for tuning, improved sight-reading skills, more focus on breath support, and more confidence in my singing. I appreciate the "growth mindset" of the Chorus; each member recognizes their weaknesses and seeks to improve their musical abilities. As a group, the Chorus works to improve in not only singing, but in building on and giving to the community as well. Robert, our conductor, gives us new ideas to interpret our music, and I think we sound different every rehearsal. I'm confident that the Chorus will continue to support me in my improvements in singing and will forward the growth mindset in everything that we do.


Music with the Twilight Falls: Thoughts on Twilight Concert 2017

Emily Woo '18

The pre-concert routine was just like any other: I put on my too familiar black dress, black tights, and black shoes. I pinned the hair out of my face and put on some make-up. I checked to see if my music was in order in my folder. Then, I walked up the stairs to the Bailey Hall green room and picked up a white carnation. And it hit me. This is my last concert in Bailey Hall. This is my last Twilight.

I am graduating in a few weeks, and have been in the Chorus since freshman fall. I remember my parents driving up to see my first Twilight performance in Sage Chapel during Parent’s Weekend three short years ago. I remember moving to Bailey Hall the next year wondering if people would come. I remember exuding confidence my junior year, so proud of the Chorus’s ability to move and entertain its listeners. What will I remember about this Twilight?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I felt the most challenged musically this Twilight. In learning In the Bleak by Benjamin Britten and Salve Regina by Pedro Bermudez we were pushed to learn many notes quickly but we learned with confidence that we could make the music come to life. The Chorus made pieces like Ba Wo Thixo Somandla arr. by Sidumo Nyamezele and Thulele Mama Ya by Lisa Young sound easy, but I know all of our minds were racing to remember the words, notes, and structure of the pieces, having put them together that week. The Grail Bird made its world premiere that night, and with the composer Christine Donkin in the audience, we felt pressure to do the piece justice. Nevertheless, throughout the concert, I was never worried about the Chorus’s ability to deliver the music.

The next thing that comes to mind is how true the concert’s theme of Alone | Together was for me. As a Chorus, we have a singular goal to deliver music to the audience, and so I felt a sense of togetherness during the concert in achieving that goal. I especially felt our unity in Cor Meum by Hanne Bæverfjord and Will the Circle Be Unbroken by J. David Moore. But the acoustics of Bailey are such that you very much feel alone on stage. It is really hard to hear other people on your part, being so spread out. Thus, I felt a special kind of focus that night and was determined to come in on my part (I’m a Soprano 2) on time, on the right pitch, and with a warm tone. I’ve really appreciated the push for all members of the Chorus to be musical leaders and I have definitely seen the Chorus’s sound grow and mature over the past few years as a result.

The last thing I will remember is taking a bow with all of the Chorus alumni and exiting the stage for the last time. I am grateful to the Chorus for the memories of bringing music to people around the world and I hope that, before I die, I may tread the Hill again to sing of our beloved Cornell with the Chorus.


Concert Week

Christina Lee '18

It’s concert week! I sit here writing this mere hours from dress rehearsal. The composer of our commissioning project, Christine Donkin, is here with the Chorus on campus, and we are just about to wrap up a crazy week.

I’m a weathered Twilight veteran. I’ve been around this block three times before, yet each week leading up to this concert never ceases to surprise me. This year in particular I was stunned by how quickly we have been able to pull a full concert together in such a small amount of time. Before this week, there were several pieces that I was worried about. Did I know the notes? What were the dynamics? How the heck was I ever going to learn those Xhosa lyrics?

However, over the course of this week, I have become much more comfortable with what the composers have written on the page, or, in some cases, what the Chorus has learned by rote. The notes have become more ingrained in my brain, making expressive technique easier to come by. Through normal rehearsal time and an extra rehearsal on Monday, plus more time in small groups, I have gained the confidence to feel fully prepared for the concert.

I am really excited to show the Cornell community what the Chorus has been working on since late August. As I always seem to say, the semester has flown by. Suddenly, it’s almost November! We’ve made so much progress in terms of group cohesion and musicianship. Through events like Retreat and Homecoming, I feel as though I’ve gotten to know the new members of the Chorus much better. I am so excited for them to experience their first Chorus concert on campus. As a group, we have also learned to work together in various ways. Through sectionals, small consorts, and mixed rehearsals, we have gotten to know each other’s voices better. I’m excited to see our progress come to fruition tomorrow night.

Give My Regards to Davy: Homecoming 2017

Eri Kato '20

“When I get back next fall!”

A few weeks into every fall semester, we are bursting with excitement to see our alumnae and sing with our brothers in the Glee Club during Homecoming! This weekend, we were blessed with eighty degree weather and bright sunshine as we set up our tailgate while reuniting with alumni and introducing the new talent of the Chorus.

As a native of Tokyo, Japan, I had never experienced school spirit manifested in football and burgers before I came to Cornell. Donning my first football jersey (a mighty $44 investment at the Cornell Store just two days prior), I cherished my memories through the lens of my camera.

Although the tailgate ran for a little over 3 hours, the day left no room to rest. As soon as the barbecue was packed up, we hurried over to witness Cornell defeat Brown in an astounding 34-7 game, then to concert call in Bailey Hall where we would later collaborate with the Glee Club for their Homecoming Concert. Changing out of Big Red gear into my ECA dress and flats, I sat on the Bailey balcony and reveled in the beautiful sound of the Glee Club, enhanced by their new members.

It constantly amazes me just how much power, support, and pride we hold in this institution. With every day that passes I feel stronger calling Cornell my new home, and I have never regretted making my life-changing decision to come here. I hope to leave a legacy of music for those to come after me, and make those who came before me proud. I consider myself truly blessed and lucky to be able to be here, call myself a Cornellian, and sing with such talented, phenomenal people.

"No Whining, No Flowers"

Sophia Zhang '21

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who shares herself equally between STEM and the arts. There’s some strange, antiquated stigma that comes with a girl who wants to pursue both, as if it’s impossible to enjoy a busy day analyzing DNA and also love spending hours fawning over beautiful polyphonies in a musical piece. To me, music has always had aspects of mathematics and logic woven into it: when I attempt to sightread a complex measure of music, my brain is working just as furiously as it is when I’m trying to debug a stubborn section of code. When Chorus successfully puts together six different and difficult voice parts that clash and resolve intermittently, I’m just as happy as when I’ve finally grasped molecular orbital theory.

It amazes me now to think that the first time I came across the idea of the Chorus’s Commissioning Project, “No Whining, No Flowers,” was actually during high school, when my chorus director included “The Song of Perfect Propriety” in our repertoire. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but this concept means so much more now that I realize its capacity to influence younger singers even without them realizing it. The lyrics of each song no longer revolve around finding the perfect suitor or waiting for unrequited love, but rather some alternative, nontraditional passion. Not only does this commissioning project forefront composers that may be historically underrepresented, it also puts more emphasis on empowering women and others who wish to see themselves as something other than the backdrop in a patriarchal society. Even modern pop songs succumb to the pressure of sexualizing and objectifying women, and I see “No Whining, No Flowers” as an answer to problematic lyrics that teach younger women to remain passive and voiceless. The commissioned pieces are often complex to execute and quirky in nature, but the end result is just as wondrous, if not more so than the typical love song about unrequited romance.

In the end, the Chorus can sing love songs about hapless admiration, but we also have a powerful set of brains and ideas behind our beautiful voices. I’m so proud to be part of a group that celebrates women and others through music.


Alone, Together

Caitlin Gleason '18

Of all the themes we've had in the last three years as a Chorus, never has one been so relatable and thought-provoking as this year's. Isolation and community, as Robert has previously mentioned in rehearsal, relates to the core of the undergraduate experience and because of that, I find myself appreciating this year’s music so much more.

When we enter college, much of our identity is still shifting and transforming just as our voices shift and transform from freshman year to senior year. In a weird and whimsical way, things also come full circle. During freshman year everyone's biggest concern is: who are my friends? What is my community? Who makes me feel at home? I'm sure most, if not all first-year students, fear rejection and isolation during those early months especially. And if not for the musical groups I joined, I would have felt deserted as well.

But by the time senior year rolls around, there comes a newfound sense of appreciation for isolation. It becomes less frightening as we find comfort in enjoying spending time with ourselves, and find that simply observing the world alone is a fine way to pass the afternoon. I have come to appreciate the feeling that I am comfortable, and even often happy, being alone.

With that, however, I also have solidified my communities. That sense of security permits me to enjoy both time learning from those around me and time learning about who I really am.

So thank you, Robert, for picking a theme that leaves me pensive, introspective, and content looking back on how much we grow from freshman year to now. In the same way a choir operates, there is synergy in numbers, but to be impactful you must be equally as confident as a singular singer.



A Rejuvenating Retreat

Medina Keita '20

Every year the Chorus spends a weekend in Vestal New York to work on repertoire that we will perform for the year and for the two Sunday services that are held at Vestal United Methodist Church. Singing for a full day can be as draining as it sounds, but this year I was determined to sing and work in a way that was productive for both my body and my mind. I decided I was going to let myself be fully immersed in the experience of sharing our voices with people who may not be familiar with choral music and the power of its beauty.

On our first day of retreat, we were blessed with beautiful weather. When it came time for a break we all went outside and enjoyed each other’s company. Following tradition, we finished the day with a bonding activity that always makes me appreciate just how similar and different all of the Chorus women are. It makes me feel so lucky to know that I can make such beautiful music with a group of women who are all so strong and inspiring.

Our first performance on Sunday was strong, despite how early we had to be up after a late night of hard work, and our second performance only got stronger after we had settled into our groove. It always surprises me to see just how many people we can make cry during each performance; it serves as a reminder that what we do is important and valuable to so many people we don’t even know. Although I am always apprehensive to step away from the schoolwork that I know is waiting for me, I always leave retreat feeling like I have truly made a difference not only in my singing but in the lives of those it has reached.

A Chance Worth Taking: Audition for the Chorus!

Caitlin Gleason '18


Do you ever ponder those rare, strange, wonderful moments in your life where simply by chance your life drastically altered its course? I often do, and one moment in particular which resonates with me especially this time of year is when I decided to audition for the Cornell University Chorus.

I had sat next to a member of the chorus on my first day of classes freshman year, and she would later become the chorus president. She asked if I was interested in music.

“Well, I’ve played the piano for years,” I’d shrugged coolly. I’d always dreamt of joining an a cappella group at Cornell, but knew I was severely inexperienced in performing and singing. These groups were not for the novices. Yet, she eventually convinced me that having spent only one year in high school choir was reason enough to audition for the chorus. 

I showed up to the audition blithely unaware of what I was getting myself into. I had never done high school theater, had neither accolades nor All State appearances to write home about, and considered myself most comfortable singing in my shower.  But if I had not taken a chance that day—if I had not auditioned for the chorus that afternoon—my college experience would have been so different.

Had I skipped that audition, I would have missed out on touring South America for a full three weeks, singing at Beth Garrett’s inauguration, and becoming musical director of an a cappella group that I swore I only got into by force of sheer luck. Had I skipped that audition, I would have missed out on learning the numerous colorful Cornell alumni songs, performing at Carnegie Hall on my birthday, and working with Grammy-nominated, world-renowned composer Roberto Sierra. 

My advice to anyone considering auditioning for the Cornell Choirs is to simply do it. There is no archetypal chorus member, and there is no such thing as a perfect audition. But more than that, there are many things that make you a valuable member besides solely being musical. Your ability to sight-read is equally as important as your resilience, cooperation, and eagerness to learn. So get out there and sign up. Practice. Don’t drink milk before your audition (I did). And most importantly, stay humble and remember to enjoy yourself because singing is such a gift. Music is a means through which you can make people feel. Music is the universal language through which humanity can connect, an empowering and yet vulnerable power, and it is such a privilege to make music with these incredible, talented people. 

An Ithaca Summer

Michelle Carfagno '19

I remember first reading the "161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do " page in The Daily Sun right before my freshman year. I was so excited by all there was to do at Cornell! However, when I read Item No. 31, "Enjoy Ithaca’s two months of warm weather — spend a summer here!", I was skeptical. Was that just Cornell's way of convincing people to pay for summer classes? What is so good about a summer at Cornell, anyway? In my opinion, the answer is everything.


When I originally was looking into internships for this summer, the last place I was looking was Ithaca. Being pre-med, I was looking into all these competitive programs close to home and deciding which ones I should apply to. However, due to some procrastination and competition, the stars did not align. Chorus tour was approaching, and I was freaking out that I was not going to have anything to do for the summer. However, shortly before I left for tour, an opportunity came my way.


Ever since coming to Cornell, I have always thought about doing research. Everyone always says that Cornell is one of the top research institutions in the country. I always made the excuse that I didn’t have enough time (which is mostly true, but HEY, get yourself involved). However, I realized that this summer was my chance to finally do research at Cornell. There was one lab in particular in the Nutrition department that I had had my eye on for the past year, and I decided that this summer was the time to go for it. And, lucky for me, the stars did align and I was hired to work in the lab! For 9 weeks, I have been coding and analyzing data regarding the use of the word “healthy” on food labels (you would be surprised how complex the word healthy is). As a Biological Sciences major with a Nutrition concentration, I am extremely thankful that I have been able to learn so much about nutrition in just a short amount of time. Also, I am very thankful to have been offered a paid position in the lab for the school year and named a co-author on one of our abstracts, which were both things that I would not have expected to have been given before the summer started. Working 40 hours a week this summer has been tough, but this lab has already given me so much more than I could have asked for.


However, Cornell provides more learning opportunities than just academic ones. A summer in Ithaca teaches you life skills. You may think I am exaggerating, but when summer starts, the dining halls close, and apartment leases start, and you need to start truly taking care of yourself. You now have to find time to make dinner for yourself, clean your whole apartment, and live together with people for the first time. It can be pretty challenging. I am so happy that I got to make all my mistakes this summer, though. I think I have finally memorized where everything is in Wegmans. I also cooked myself some salmon last night, and it came out pretty well if I do say so myself!


Let me revisit Item No. 31 on the Cornell Bucket list, though. It says, “Enjoy Ithaca’s two months of warm weather...” All of us Cornellians know this all too well -- Slope Day is the one warm day of the year, and then classes are over. With an Ithaca summer, however, you get to do all the things it’s too cold to usually do during the year. I’ve tried to be outdoors as much as possible-whether it means kayaking at Taughannock State Falls, boating on Cayuga Lake, hanging out on the slope, or watching the sunset at Ezra’s Tunnel. That’s right, Ithaca sunsets are even more spectacular in the summer. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for a good sunset. What has made this summer extra special, however, is the people I got to spend it with. I got lucky because there were at least 30 people from the Chorus and Glee Club here this summer. Without them and all the other friends who I spent time with, this summer would have been a lot emptier. To everyone I spent my summer with this year, thanks for all the adventures. I’ll miss ya Summer 2017. #summerofyes

Tour Throwback: Washington, D.C.

Amy Penick '17

It’s windy and sunny as the Chorus plops off the bus directly between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. As we parade over to the Hall of Flags in trav, it’s hard not to feel a little patriotic, although passing through a flock of teens decked out in “Make America Great Again” hats aptly crushes that notion. An extremely helpful man shows us our changing quarters, some hungry singers grab $5 coffee and $8 pizza slices from the well-hidden cafe, and despite some members experiencing peak “tour rage,” we sing a somewhat impromptu afternoon concert in the Hall of Flags--and that’s pretty neat. O Magnum Mysterium (arr. Cristobal de Morales) rings beautifully in the chamber above us, soaring gracefully above the ambient noise of partially engaged passersby.

I spend my free afternoon with Anna, Nereida, and Xin on an expedition to find food and adventures. We discover an Indian restaurant that feels like the love child of a wood-fired oven, a sports bar, and a barber shop from the 22nd century. The absurdly tall sofa chairs, the TV screen embedded underneath the stairs, and the toilets’ Japanese control panels are a rather atypical combination to embrace, but the curry and naan make our bellies happy. We proceed to gorge ourselves on some local coffee, chocolate, cupcakes, and gelato before wandering through the sculpture gardens and emulating some statues to pose for photos.


Penny (our bus driver) arrives, despite DC traffic and all odds, to scoop us up and deliver us to the Women’s National Democratic Club, where we have a reception-type event pulled together by a team of planners in DC. This event doesn’t particularly carry any political implications but is more of an opportunity to establish connections between our two organizations. We sing a couple pieces encircling the audience and then enjoy a more casual schmooze session with intermittent Cornell Songs. Hakuna Matata-esque vibes propagate throughout the chambers of the clubhouse, encapsulating even the tiny, Amy-sized bathroom cleverly tucked underneath the staircase.

After a couple hours of Cornell spirit, we pair off with our homestays for the night. I have the pleasure of staying with the lovely Chorus alumna Emily Higgins ‘15 for the next two nights. Nick Ringelberg ‘16, a Glee Club alumnus, brings his homestay kiddos over to our quarters for guacamole and chill. As we share stories it occurs to me that the six of us span six consecutive years of Glorus, each having a unique but ultimately shared experience. It’s opportunities like this that remind me of the power of music to draw people together and keep a community within arm’s reach even after everyone has dispersed from the Hill.

Here’s to life after Cornell and life after Glorus.