New gospel choir joins Choral Contest lineup

Ami Tian

Typically, the annual Whitman Choral Contest pits singing groups from each fraternity and  sorority against each other, as well as men’s and women’s independent groups. A  cappella groups like Schwa, the Testostertones and the Sirens of Swank also compete in a separate category. This year, however, yet another group will join the line-up, competing in the main contest against choirs such as Beta Theta Pi, the winner of last year’s ‘People’s Choice’ Award.

The Gospel Choir, started this year by sophomores Daria Reaven and Jo French, will perform for the first time at this year’s contest, Friday, April 23, in Cordiner Hall at 7:30 p.m. Despite its name, the group has no religious affiliation, and sees ‘gospel’ more as a musical style or genre than a religious statement.

First-year Jillian Brown described her experience singing in the newly-created group.

“I’m not very musically experienced or knowledgeable, and quite a few people are in the gospel choir are, which is nice, so there’s a bunch of people who can offer direction,” said Brown. “It’s just a really fun atmosphere to go be a part of, and everyone’s always pretty lighthearted and ready to have fun and sing some gospel.”

Meanwhile, other groups have been busy polishing their repertoire, such as the Independent Men’s Choir, winner of the men’s category in 2008. Senior Adam Caniparoli, who is leading the choir this year, described his hasty assumption of the directorial position.

“It was all very quickly put together, it was sort of at the last second,” said Caniparoli. “Myself and David Protter were going to put this group together and we really didn’t know what we wanted to do, but I had more of a background in music than David, so I took the lead.”

Nevertheless, Caniparoli is more than confident that the group will pull through in time for the performance.

“We’ve basically been learning our music for two weeks, which is a little stressful, but there’s a lot of really talented people in the group,” said Caniparoli. “I think we’re going to be in really good shape.”

The  Independent  Women’s Choir, too, has overcome obstacles in its preparation. The co-director of the group, junior McKenna Milici, appreciated how well the group rose to meet the challenges they faced this year.

“[Junior Emily Allen] and I were more ambitious with our song choices this year,” said Milici. “One of our songs is four-part harmony: and it was actually written for mixed men and women’s choir, and we arranged it for just women . . . And Emily actually wrote the arrangement of our other song. I’m always so impressed by the talent of a group of women coming together, and we wanted to step it up a bit.”

Milici also found difficulty in recruiting members for an independent group.

“I sometimes feel the Indy Women Choir is at a disadvantage because we don’t have the established structure of a sorority to pull members from, but it just means we have to work harder advertising at the beginning,” said Milici.

Although the indy women have not had the comfort of drawing from an established community, Milici has enjoyed the creation of their own community over the rehearsal process.

“The women who I get to work with are incredible: and we become close over the course of our rehearsals,” said Milici. “My hope is always that this is a fun process for the girls involved, because I’m having a blast.”

Sophomore Paul Kruss, director of the Sigma Chi choir, is also directing a choral contest group for the first time.

“The position of running the choral contest for this house sort of fell into my lap, me being one of the few musically inclined or musically active people in the house,” said Kruss. “So I didn’t really know what to expect.”

Despite being new to the position, Kruss has high expectations for the group.

“I am putting an emphasis on us trying to do some more actual singing in the house this year though, so we have put some more serious work into our songs this year than I think we did even last year,” said Kruss.

Choral Contest, however, is generally acknowledged by the group as ultimately about having fun.

“I have been pleasantly surprised though with the level of participation and enthusiasm in the house. I think that we, as a house, are pretty excited for Choral Contest and hope to have a pretty good showing this year,” said Kruss. “I don’t think anyone in the house really cares that much about the competitive aspect of the contest, but I think people are looking forward to going out there and having fun with it and hopefully making the crowd happy.”