Chamber on Tour

The NVU-Johnson Chamber Singers started their annual recruitment tour on April 3. The 12-person group started the tour with a workshop at McGill University in Montreal, courtesy of Dr. Jean-Sebastian Vallee. Since then, they have visited high school music departments, singing and recruiting students for NVU.

“The Chamber Singers choir typically travels around to a variety of different places to recruit for Northern Vermont University- Johnson,” said interim chamber director, Jessica Pierpoint. “In the past, the choir has gone to different countries in addition to traveling all around Vermont. We collaborate with high schools, specifically with the choral department, and do a variety of different activities such as learning music together, [getting] to know new activities and doing warm ups. We also do a question and answer section at the end so that students are able to be informed about NVU and hopefully generate interest for them to come to campus.”

The group started practice at the beginning of the year, meeting two to three times a week at 8:30 a.m. Rehearsal starts with vocal warm-ups and direction from Pierpoint as well as other ensemble members. While the group works through different pieces, they make sure to address issues in tone, dynamics, pronunciation and pitch. Some students even receive credit for their direction within the group. Given that the Chamber Singers ensemble can be taken for 1, 0.5, or 0 credits, there are some conducting students within the group who provide direction as a project.

The group’s tour set list is “Zion’s Walls” by Aaron Copland Hall, arrangement by Glenn Koponen; “The Best of All Possible Worlds” from Candide by Leonard Bernstein, arrangement by Robert Page; “Jenny Rebecca” by Carol Hall Page, arrangement by Clair T. McElfresh; “Non vidi mai dopo notturna pioggia” by Luca Marenzio; and “Regina Coeli, KV 276” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The Chamber Singers are an auditioned group, meaning that all its members are also in Chorale and have auditioned to be a part of it.

Despite the audition process, students are still encouraged to join regardless of their major. Most of the group are students of the Music Department. The other four are in varying fields, such as Journalism, Psychology and Education. Junior and Music Composition major, Timothy Pinckney, said, “Non-music majors are certainly welcome and encouraged to join!”

Its members include Jo Harnois, Sierra Spence, Maddie Gibbons, Katelynn Habecker, Katy Jones, Maggie Schmidl, Olivia LeBlanc, Athena Abramowitz, Kevin Diette, Emmett Erwin, Kyle Palmer, and Timothy Pinckney.

When asked what she loved most about being a Chamber singer, Freshman Journalism major Maggie Schmidl praised the teamwork displayed by her fellow singers. She also expressed her own sense of fulfillment from the tour.

“Everyone is so talented and works so hard and we accomplish so much,” said Schmidl. “Singing for the kids was so cool, because a lot of them come from underfunded programs and don’t get to see a lot of professional groups. For them to come see us means a lot. One of the songs we performed, “Jenny Rebecca,” we have been working on since the beginning of the year and it’s a cappella. We sang it for two of the groups, and the kid’s faces just lit up. It feels so good to be able to connect and inspire [students].”
While students like Schmidl enjoyed the tour for its effect on pre-collegiate students, students like Pinckney have revelled in their love of performance. “What I love most about performing is that it is so incredibly fleeting,” said Pinckney. “Once a performance happens, it is gone, and it will never happen again. You could come very close, but you will never have the same timbre of voices, the same performance space, the same mistakes, and the same coughs from the audience. You can never achieve that exact soundscape again, and you were there to create it.”

While no dates have been set, the group plans to tour again next year. Auditions for next year’s Chamber Singers will take place at the beginning of the Fall 2019 semester.

Usually the Chamber Singers is directed by Dr. Bethany Plissey. However, since she is on sabbatical, Pierpoint has been running the group in Plissey’s absence. Now that Plissey will be returning for the fall semester, Pierpoint will be leaving NVU to start her own choral non-profit in Burlington.
Pierpoint has said that she appreciates the help she has received from her colleges Dr. Justin Rito, Mary Jane Austin and Isaac Eddy. “I love performing because you can transfer the responsibility over to the choir,” said Pierpoint. “It is about them and the experience of creating a moment that will never be created that same way ever again. It is exciting to watch everything come together and what can be at times really challenging. Then performing you see and experience the final product. The audience responds and it’s an overwhelmingly positive experience for all people involved in the concert.”

When asked who the group’s greatest asset was during the Chamber Tour, Pinckney said, “Jessie Pierpont, easily! Jessie knows everything she is talking about and teaches us with a smile on her face. I feel like I’ve learned more about singing this semester than I have in my previous five.”

Schmidl agreed with Pinckney. “Jessie has been a real inspiration this semester. She is so talented and teaches us something new every day, no matter our skill level. She’s always there to help us with anything, even personal stuff, and truly brings out the best in all of us… We all love her so much and are going to miss her when she’s gone.”

The Chamber Singers next major performance will take place at the NVU-J spring concert on May 3 at 7:00 p.m. in the Dibden Center for the Arts.