Noah Isherwood, Campus Carrier asst. arts & living editor
Next Thursday, the Berry Singers will leave for Washington, D.C., to be a part of the monthly Evensong service at the National Cathedral. The group will sing before the service as the prelude choir on Sunday according to Paul Neal, the director of the Berry choirs.
“We’re going to sing for the thirty minutes before the Evensong officially begins,” Neal said.
Each month, a different choir serves as the prelude choir, so getting to do so is somewhat competitive. According to sophomore music education major Julia Lester, the process of getting Berry Singers into the Evensong has been a long one.
“This has been in the works since the summer actually,” Lester said. “We’ve been talking about it for a while.”
A recording of Berry Singers was sent to the organizers of the Evensong at the end of the semester last spring and the selection process began. Once the choir was accepted, the actual date that Berry Singers would perform was selected.
“It just happened that the week they wanted us to come was around spring break, which was perfect, like it was meant to be,” Neal said.
After the date was finalized, Neal had to select the program that the choir would sing. This program was subject to specific guidelines set down by the organizers, according to Neal.
“It was quite a challenge, because they told us the entire program had to be unaccompanied,” Neal said.
Not only was there this musical limitation, but the content of the pieces was limited as well.
“We’re going during the season of Lent, and since it is Lent we can’t sing certain songs,” Neal said.
Specifically, several pieces Neal suggested were declined because they contained the word ‘alleluia,’ whose use is restricted within the Lenten season. However, after taking this guideline into advisement, Neal put together what he feels is a well-rounded program.
“We really are trying to cover all the styles of sacred music within the parameters they put us in,” Neal said.
Ultimately, this trip is an educational opportunity for the Berry Singers, both musically and otherwise. Singing in the National Cathedral has several benefits to the music students in Berry Singers, and it is something that will be new for them, according to sophomore music education major Nolon Barry.
“It’s a space that is famously known for how much reverb it provides for choirs and sound in general, so it’ll be completely different,” Barry said.
The acoustics of this new space will require specific adjustments in singing, a challenge that both Barry and Lester are looking forward to. According to Neal, being able to use the cathedral will also help the students learn about the rich history of choral music.
“Especially in the vocal and choral area, sacred music is the institution by which choral singing was founded,” Neal said. “Singing in the cathedral gives our music students a perspective of music history that they can really learn from.”
Besides the musical education that students will receive, the trip will provide avenues of civic education to the students. The choir has planned trips and tours to the White House, the Capitol, and the National Holocaust Museum, among other important sites. Neal said that he hopes the trip will help students build their own civic worldview in a new way.
“To go in a college situation when you’re defining your own personal political life, it’s fun for them to experience it as an adult rather than as an eighth grader,” Neal said.
With the upcoming eletion, Washington is sure to be quite busy politically, and this has informed the trip as well, according to Lester.
“We’ve been told to represent Berry in a way that would make our school proud,” Lester said.
That means no attire with political slogans for the students, which Lester said is alright because taking sides politically is not what the trip is about.
“We’re trying to show the unification of Berry, and the peace that we can bring and that we’re together even if we don’t all agree at the same time, if we don’t support the same people,” Lester said. “And that’s ok, because through music we’re all connected in a way that’s safe.”
The Berry Singers will be holding a concert of the program they will sing at Evensong tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Bell Recital Hall.