Reflections on Another Audition Season Gone By

Sarah Sperber ‘22

Excitement mounts as we prepare for our group to grow this audition season, and I can’t help but reflect on my first experiences with the chorus last January. I came to Cornell in the fall of 2018 excited to explore all of the opportunities people said this school would offer me. As a freshman who felt in over her head at an enormous competitive new school, I was scared. Despite my zeal and best efforts, I found myself a little lost during my first semester here. I ended up without a single extra-curricular activity, as I was simply overwhelmed by the club fair and too nervous to audition for any music groups. I went through my freshman fall uninspired and began to feel hopeless; transferring schools became a very attractive prospect as I sank into despondency.

However, after many cups of tea with my mom over winter break, I decided I’d give it one more semester. As we made a game-plan for the spring, my mom suggested I try out for a musical group. I didn’t like a cappella because I didn’t want the pressure of being the only one on a part, and I didn’t think anything could beat singing classical music. That left me with Cornell’s Treble Chorus. I set up my audition and arrived to it trembling on the 25th of January. Immediately, I was disarmed by the warm welcoming energy from the director and the members in the lobby, and at that point I knew--this was the group I wanted to belong to. A few days later, I was thrilled to get an email offering me a callback. As I went through the second round, I only grew more determined and more certain that I wanted to join. Members greeted me with smiles and kind words at my callback rehearsal and I was stuck by the beauty of their sound. Needless to say, I just about jumped over the moon when I got in. My spring semester proved much more fruitful than the fall. As the weeks passed, I remembered what it was like to apply myself and began to gain musicianship and a lot of incredible friends. I felt a glimmer of an unfamiliar feeling--pride. Making music with these people was (and is) inspiring and rewarding. Spring break came, and we went off to Canada for an incredible tour. I finally learned the entirety of the repertoire and solidified friendships that I cherish today. I came back to the states holding my head a little higher. Between the Glormal, wine tour, and Senior Week, the end of the semester was the time of my life. I come back to my second year motivated and prepared to succeed. The chorus has supported me and empowered me to work harder and strive further in all aspects of my life. Last year, I lost myself in the new context of Cornell and the chorus helped me find my path. I’m so excited for our family to grow and I hope our newbies feel at home in our community. Here’s to a great semester!


Top Ten Memories

Jenn Catalano ’20

As a rising senior returning to Cornell in just a couple weeks, it is inevitable that I will become a bit nostalgic.  Thinking back on my past three years at this university, the Chorus has emerged as the common theme of my best memories.  I thought it would be timely to recount on my top ten memories from my time in the Chorus. If you are a prospective member on the fence of auditioning for the Chorus, then you absolutely should—you will be able to make all these incredible memories and more!

10. Treble Choir Conference.

In the spring of my freshman year, the Chorus hosted a treble choir conference with five other collegiate treble choirs from Mount Holyoke College, NYU, Harvard University, Smith College, and the College of William & Mary.  The weekend consisted of workshops, concerts, and social events. I met so many incredible singers, engaged in very topical conversations, and became closer with members of the Chorus all in two days!

9. Co-leading my first AC meeting.

In June, I co-led the biannual Advisory Council meeting for alums and current members alongside Chorus General Manager Sophie Arzumanov ’21.  Preparation for this meeting involved several calls to alums I have never met before, writing a full report detailing events and financials, and the very careful art of meeting moderation.  While I was incredibly nervous for the meeting, having Sophie by side gave me the confidence to make the meeting a success and was a great learning opportunity in the process.

8. Southern BBQ.

My first tour as part of the Chorus was to the Atlantic Coast, organized by Liz Mueller ’18, traveling all the way from Ithaca to Atlanta and everywhere in between.  I had only been to one of the eight cities on the tour, and I was beyond excited. One night, the entire Chorus freshmen class decided to get some BBQ while we were in Atlanta, and it did not disappoint.  Not only was this one of the most fun nights I ever had on tour, but the waiter even asked us to sing a song. We all proudly and joyfully sang “Will the Circle”—a beloved Chorus classic—and we did not disappoint.

7. Meeting Joe Biden.

In May 2017, I had the honor of meeting former Vice President Joe Biden as part of Cornell’s Convocation ceremony.  We were right next to the stage during his speech, and he even took a picture with us! Every year the Chorus and Glee Club sing at the university graduation in May, receiving accolades from the Cornell President and Convocation speaker.

6. Getting two standing ovations at ACDA.

In March 2018, the Chorus was invited to perform at the American Choral Directors’ Association Conference in Pittsburgh.  Michelle Carfagno ’19 and Chiara Alvisi ’20 admirably led the effort to earn us the funds to travel there. Thanks to their help, not only was I able to travel to a city I’ve never been to before—attending a professional choral concert in the evening and touring the University of Pittsburgh during the day—but the Chorus received standing ovations for both of our performances.  There was not a single member not beaming during the applause.

5. Getting an internship.

This past summer, I interned at a large consulting firm in Washington, DC—an incredible and unforgettable experience.  Looking back, I really have the Chorus to thank. Much of my interview was spent discussing my role in the Chorus, the scope of projects the Chorus takes on, and the leadership and management skills I have gained in the Chorus.  No doubt the confidence and skills I have developed in the Chorus allowed me to be accepted to and excel in this internship.


4. Performing Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.

In May 2018, the Chorus and Glee Club performed the St. Matthew Passion.  Never have I performed a work so daunting yet so beautiful. I will always remember this concert because it was the first choral concert my parents were able to attend, and they were absolutely blown away.  I got tears in my eyes during the last movement, and I still do every time I listen to a recording.

3. Becoming an officer.

One of my favorite memories of the Chorus was receiving a phone call from the then-President Brigid Lucey ’18 alerting me that I had been selected as an officer for the Chorus.  I (a bit timidly) applied for the position of Social Chair, who is responsible for planning the logistics of all social events for the Chorus—ranging from weekly get-togethers to formal concert receptions.  My claim to fame as social chair, you ask? An outer-space themed afterparty following the Chorus’ tour to the Gulf Coast and the Houston Space Center—with an outer-space themed playlist of course.

2. Science presentation in Toronto.

During the Chorus’ most recent tour to Canada in Spring 2019, organized by Sophia Zhang ’21 and Dana Luong ’20, the Chorus was asked to participate in a dual science experiment and choral concert at Trinity College in Toronto.  An ecstatic Chorus alum and physics professor displayed the sound waves we produced throughout the concert. I can confidently say that there are virtually no other choirs who can claim a similar experience. 

1. RPCC Dinners.

While a simple memory, by far one of my favorite memories was weekly dinners at the Robert Purcell Community Center every Wednesday after rehearsal with the rest of my freshmen Chorus and Glee Club class.  Coming into Cornell I was extremely nervous about making friends, but I immediately found a group of best friends in the Chorus, and I could always look forward to these weekly dinners to bring us closer and help us all find a home at Cornell.


Spring AC Meeting — the General Manager’s Perspective

Sophie Arzumanov ‘21

This past June I co-led my first AC meeting as the new General Manager. Jenn and I had been preparing for this meeting for about a month. I was so happy that we had each other’s backs, but I’ll admit there were a lot of nerves going into the weekend. From making sure the report was polished and printed in time, to ensuring that all of the important topics were covered effectively, there was a lot to think about. However, reflecting back on the weekend, I am very satisfied with how everything went, and optimistic about the future of the Chorus.

One of the key topics of discussion was our Endowment. It was great to hear ideas from new voices and to feel the momentum that we were starting to capture. Some of the ideas that I hope to bring to fruition were things like having class agents to reconnect with alums, and work with the Glee Club committee to learn their strategies from their successful campaign. We now understand that financial parity between the groups is as important as ever.

Our discussion of the Centennial preparation was linked to the Endowment, and was extremely fruitful. For instance, we decided to change the date of the Centennial celebration to Reunions Weekend 2021. Though this was a small hiccup, I am very excited that we could have this transparent discussion and agreement with the alums in order to make sure we were reaching as many people as possible during this exciting celebration of the Chorus’s history. I am very excited about alum engagement in preparation for the Centennial, and I cannot wait to see our plans come together during the next year.

Above all else, this AC meeting was personally special to me because I felt that I could really connect with alums and hear what they had to say. In planning and logistics, it’s easy to lose sight of why you are doing something. The AC meeting energized me and realigned my purpose in serving this ensemble. I cannot wait to see how Chorus members, past and present, shape our future.


Finding and Creating Forever Friendships

Melissa Gao ‘21

When I first came to Cornell,  I had trouble making friends. I was living in a small hallway of singles in a quiet dorm, and my classes were all overwhelmingly large introductory lectures in big auditoriums. I knew I wanted to audition for the Chorus because I had been a choir kid my whole life, and I was so excited to have been accepted and to be able to continue doing and getting better at what I loved. However, as my previous choirs had only focused on music, I didn’t join this one expecting much socially.

But chorus soon gave me much more than just the gift of music — it gave me the gift of friendship. As I got to know all of my fellow ZOZIs and the amazing upperclassmen, I met and became close with the people I now call my best friends. I felt immediately included in this friendly, accepting, and fun community full of diverse individuals whom I looked up to both musically and academically. It was the first time I ever felt like I truly belonged on campus, and I was incredibly happy. Every rehearsal I sat next to someone new and interesting, and I was grateful to be surrounded by so many people that I admired.

Having made my closest friends from the Chorus, I knew I wanted to give back and create events that would help others have the same experiences as me. I applied for and became social chair last spring, and have been loving it ever since. Though it is incredibly fun to create fun for everyone, I would be lying if I said the job didn’t have its ups and downs. It can be tough to satisfy everyone’s needs, entertain over 100 opinions, and be the main planner and organizer for social events at least once a week. Something will always go differently than planned, and less than ideal situations sometimes pop up. However, being social chair has always been worth it. Not only have I grown personally and professionally, but I’ve also had the opportunity to get to know almost every member of the Glorus (Chorus + Glee Club) at all the social events, and even create my own.

Perhaps the greatest reward is the privilege to see friendships budding right before my eyes and the reactions to fun events showcased on fellow members’ faces. Looking around a room full of smiling, laughing people and knowing I helped create that happiness brings one of the warmest and most rewarding feelings I have ever felt to my heart. The joy of successfully putting on an event and creating long-lasting memories for my fellow members is why I continue to love my position, and why I will miss it so much when I leave it this April.

I am eternally thankful for the Chorus because it’s given me a warm, loving community, as well as the people I now consider to be my closest friends. I can proudly say that Glorus really is my main social circle, and no matter what mood I’m in, I always feel better when I go to rehearsal and am surrounded by so many familiar and friendly faces. Chorus/Glorus is my family at Cornell, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s large, fun and quirky, and whenever we’re together, we all can’t help but have a good time — and I’ve been able to contribute to that happiness and cohesiveness by being social chair.

Chorus is not just a two-credit class you go to two times a week. Chorus is not just a club choir that you sing in. It is much more than that. It is a family and community of passionate, like-minded individuals from a plethora of majors and backgrounds who recognize the importance of singing. It is a caring group of individuals who will support you both personally and professionally, not only in your time at Cornell, but forever.

On Opportunity

Michelle Carfagno ‘19

When I came to Cornell and decided to audition for the Chorus, I was simply looking to continue my singing career after high school. I was excited to make music at the collegiate level with people who were just as passionate about classical singing as I. However, I never could have predicted that the Chorus would provide me with the opportunity to develop the leadership skills that I will treasure for the rest of my life and throughout my career.

I realized how special the Chorus was during my first Chorus retreat in Vestal, NY. Each class was brainstorming ways we could raise funds for our endowment campaign and improve our visibility on campus. I was amazed by the fact that every member of the group was equally invested in the future success of the Chorus and that every voiced idea was valued, no matter the person who voiced it. I realized that the Chorus was different from all my other general body clubs from high school. I decided at that moment that I wanted to take it a step further and hold leadership positions within the Chorus so I could help the Chorus grow in any way possible.

Since then, my organizational and leadership skills have blossomed. My positions have taught me how to deal with conflict, to lead a large group of people, and to communicate effectively.  These skills are simply not things that you can learn in the classroom.

While holding these leadership positions within the Chorus, I have had the chance to work on  meaningful projects. During my time as Officer-At-Large, I helped to lead a crowdfunding campaign to raise more than $11,000 for our trip to the American Choral Directors Association Conference, eliminating the potential financial burden for members to attend. This involved designing and implementing a fundraising strategy and overseeing the efforts of twenty team members throughout the month-long campaign. As Vice President, I am currently developing and maintaining our Alumnae Mentorship Program in order to foster relationships between our alumni and current students. These are just two of many projects on which I have had the honor of serving.

As I am a senior interviewing for jobs, companies love to ask about what I learned at Cornell. Experiences like these are always the first that come to mind. Beyond that, these experiences have allowed me to meet so many of our inspiring alumni along the way who are equally invested in the prosperity of the Chorus. These experiences have given me the opportunity to mentor younger members both musically and socially as they adjust to the group. The Chorus is like no other organization I have ever been a part of. I will forever cherish all the opportunities the Chorus has given me to grow, and I can’t wait to join the alumni ranks and continue to give back to the organization that keeps on giving.


Spring Auditions: Worth It?

Euna Park ‘21

At first glance, it may seem a bit daunting to join an organization halfway through the academic year. As a spring admit, I get it. I understand the worries of finding your place in a new campus where everyone already seems to be settled down, friends made, clubs and club sports joined. The temptation to wait a semester and join with a whole host of new students in the fall can be very strong.

Despite these doubts, I went ahead and auditioned for Chorus in the spring of 2018. I was elated when I got in, but being one of just two new members to the Chorus that semester, I was worried I’d feel more like an outsider than anything. Without me, the group had gone on tour together, had sung at numerous concerts, had built up tons of inside jokes and traditions. Without a strong number of newbies to wade through unfamiliarity with me, who was I to think I could fit in?

That fear dissolved as soon as I stood with the other members at my first rehearsal — at first into awe, then delight. Eyes shining, I was rapt from warm-ups to dismissal. It was amazing listening to the dozens of talented voices mesh around me into one beautiful, full sound. After rehearsal, members approached me and walked with me to new member dinner, which erased any doubt that they would welcome me with open arms. Smiling and amicable, they peppered me with questions and answered my own, making me feel right at home.

Both the Chorus alone and with its brother group, the Glee Club (combined, we affectionately call ourselves the Glorus), feel like a large, loving family. From rehearsing many hours together to performing on stage to, on occasion, embarking on joint tours, we make joyous memories with one another every year. If the local weather were as warm as the love everyone shares and showers new members with, Ithaca would be green year-round.

Entering in the spring also allowed me to experience our most recent concert, Lessons and Carols (previously called “Vespers”), in a way that few other Chorus members can. New members sit at the back for this performance, so there I was, the oldest of the new, sat in front of bright-eyed freshmen and behind seasoned seniors of the Glorus. This was an especially interesting place to perform in the group. In front of me, I could hear Glorus past; in back, I could hear its future. There were several times when the realization of what once was and what would never be again, combined with a rush of hope and love for the future, hit me while singing and listening to the others sing. In one such instance, I was nearly moved to tears.

I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on experiences like this. Singing with the Chorus has been such a magical part of my time so far at Cornell, and I’m so glad I looked into auditioning as soon as I set foot on campus. If you love singing, even if you don’t have much previous experience, or any at all, I’d highly suggest auditioning. We’ll be here, arms wide open.

A First Semester (Why Audition?)

Caroline Hinrichs ‘22

Now is the time when students celebrate the anticipated arrival of Winter Break with all the pure delight associated with the first snow of the year (though that happened in October — just Ithaca things!!). It’s also a time to reflect on the events of the semester. As a freshman, I found that this semester encompassed a lot of new things — some wonderful, some challenging, some wonderfully challenging. I’m happy to say that my experience with the CU Chorus falls into the last category.

I remember the day over the summer when I saw a Facebook post by the recruitment chair about the Chorus. Eager to continue my high school interest in choral music, I clicked over to this website and excitedly looked through recordings and blogs (just like this one!). It was clear that the Chorus had a lot to offer musically, but at the same time, I couldn’t help wondering if all of the hype on the website about love and community was true. Regardless, I wanted to find out. That same day, I signed up for an audition and resolved to come to campus and try out. 

Once I got to Cornell, my nerves almost got the better of me. I was a little sick, I told myself, and my voice wasn’t at its best. Then, I went to the Orientation week concert and was blown away by such pure, cohesive sounds — I decided I had to give it a shot.

An audition is an incredibly nerve-wracking experience, but every single member of the Chorus I interacted with during the audition process was nothing less than helpful and kind. Today, I am so glad I tried out. I have grown and been challenged in my musicianship, but I have also found my place as part of a community on campus that is strengthened by almost 100 years of marvelous music-making. To learn the Cornell songs, to sing on the Bailey Hall stage, to don the long black evening dress and flower boutonnière — experiencing all these nostalgic, beautiful traditions as a newcomer made me feel at home at the University. I had just arrived, and yet I had the privilege of contributing to something greater than myself, stretching long through generations past and wide across the country and the world. Being part of Chorus means that you are Cornell. You represent the University, and are part of the tradition that forms its vast, venerated, ever-beating heart.

Today, I can confirm that what they say about the Chorus is true. We are like a family. I have made some of my closest friends within the freshman class through Chorus, and I’ve also had the opportunity to meet inspiring upperclassmen and alumni who have shared their valuable insights on life and being a Cornell student. Making such connections as a freshman is truly a unique opportunity. 

Do you love making choral music too? Do you feel called to tradition, belonging, and community? Please, take the leap and audition. We would love to have you.

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Happy Holidays from the Chorus Class of 2022!

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

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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

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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.