Glee Club to sing classic choral songs at spring show

by Hallie Huffaker | 5/6/14 3:47pm

After a winter show that featured modern Spanish music, the Dartmouth College Glee Club will return to the classics at its Friday evening spring concert at the Top of the Hop. The group will sing mostly Renaissance music by Franco-Flemish composer Orlande de Lassus, French composer Pierre Passereau and Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi, as well as one modern choral song by American composer Morten Lauridsen.

While the works by Lassus and Passereau feature light, dance-like songs about music and love, Monteverdi’s “Lamento d’Arianna” tells the story of a pastoral tragedy, and Lauridsen’s song warns of the sorrow interwoven with passionate love. Directed by music professor Louis Burkot, a total of 31 singers will perform.

The performance’s location will allow for dynamism in the show, Burkot said, as members will move around the space and perform in different areas of the hall.

“There is a very pure aesthetic about Renaissance music. It has the sense of being very structured and very spatially oriented,” he said. “I’m excited to use the Top of the Hop and as many different physical configurations as possible to find places in the hall that make these pieces sound the best for the audience.”

About half of the concert’s repertoire features French lyrics, while the other half features Italian. The accents and intonations can prove challenging for non-native speakers, but they are important to singing the music as it was meant to be enjoyed, he said.

Emma Orme ’15, who joined the group her freshman year, said she is excited to sing a repertoire “harkening back to traditional choral roots.”

“For traditional choral music like this, it is all about creating a unified blend,” Orme said. “No one person can stick out, and that is the most fun challenge for me, singing at a really high level and trying to produce a really high-quality, communal sound.”

Burkot said that despite the difficult repertoire, students have learned his instructions very quickly. Through trial and error in rehearsals, the group achieved the “light, delicate texture” that he looked for in many pieces.

“We have been experimenting with using fewer voices at some parts to get that effect,” Burkot said. “We try to make the pieces sound the best for this particular voice grouping.”

Many students join to continue improving their technique under Burkot’s instruction. Lauren Gatewood ’14, whose first time singing classical music was at Dartmouth, said she had to adjust her voice from the musical theater songs that were more familiar to her.

Gatewood described Burkot as an intense and skilled conductor who makes learning the challenging music enjoyable.

“What’s great about Glee Club is that it’s full of students who really care about the music and who not only have good voices, but understand technique and theory,” she said.

Ben Rutan ’17, another group member, said he is looking forward to singing music that was considered very “avant-garde” for its time.

“The Monteverdi piece has some parts where you initially hear the chord and it sounds out of tune and wrong, but as the chord progresses, it settles in,” he said. “The listener is constantly evaluating the music, and that constantly keeps them on their feet.”

Cali Digre ’14 said she joined to find the choral community that surrounded her in high school. The rehearsal atmosphere is typically professional, she said.

The group breaks into sections during rehearsals to allow men and women to practice separately, Digre said. This allows for finer attention to detail and a more cohesive final product when they come back together, she said.

Orme said that a large part of producing a unified sound comes from listening to other members.

“What Louis likes to say is that you know physically and muscularly what it feels like to produce the sound you need to produce, but you can’t think about the actual sound that you are producing because you need to be focusing on the people around you,” she said.

Gatewood called the spring concert “fun, informal and intimate.” She described the group’s post-concert ritual of singing traditional Dartmouth mustic while standing in a circle and linking arms as a performance highlight. The group will take the opportunity to say farewell to its seniors, though they will perform once more at Commencement.

“One of the songs, ‘Pea Green Freshmen,’ has a verse for every class, and when we are singing about a certain class, those people are dancing around in the middle of the circle,” Gatewood said. “The last verse slows down and mentions the ‘grand old seniors,’ and that’s the time when we really send off the seniors.”