In its fifth year, the King’s Chorus continues to welcome those who sing in showers as well as choirs.
Choir member Bethany Draper, a recruiter for the University of King’s College, remembers first coming upon the choir in 2010 when she marched into a rehearsal impatient to pick up her older brother.
“I was sitting there telling myself, ‘what the heck—this is right up my alley!’”
Draper then auditioned for the Chorus and, like many who do, she became a member. She has been with the Chorus as they sang masses and performed more contemporary music, like Love Songs for Springtime in 2013.
One of the youngest student societies amongst a number of Canada’s oldest, the King’s Chorus was founded in January 2010 when Nick Halley, the assistant-director of the King’s Chapel Choir, realized he was turning away talented singers with nowhere to perform.
“We wanted to make another environment for people to sing at King’s,” Halley says. “I mentioned it to students Ted Williams and Tim Blackwood. Teddy asked me, ‘If I start it will you direct it?’ And I said of course.”
Williams, now a graduate of King’s, quickly posted posters for the makeshift chorus on a Friday night. There were upwards of 80 tryouts the following Sunday.
To Halley’s shock, the speedy creation of the Chorus and its non-competitive accessibility had little impact on its first concert, where they performed Handel’s Zadok the Priest.
“This huge sound was coming out of what was supposed to be an amateur chorus. I’ve never forgotten that sound,” he says.
Hosting a diverse group of students, alumni, faculty and community members, the King’s Chorus has spent its first five years recreating and improving on the sound Halley heard at that first concert, despite the member turnover each school year. A core group of members is always present each new semester, however, providing new singers something to connect to.
The Chorus’ external-coordinator, Elizabeth Orenstein, has found rehearsals to be fun and educational for everyone, regardless of their experience.
“Nick manages to stop a rehearsal and explain musical theory and technique, and then we’re right back in rehearsal,” she says. “My musical skill has gone up exponentially since joining the chorus.”
Orenstein, along with internal coordinator Anne White, are now paid members of the Chorus’ executive, which was restructured last April.
Previously, Halley had been responsible for securing funding for the society, building up awareness and handling communication between its members—all while serving as its director.
“Ideally the Chorus would be like a non-profit musical group, with a creative director—Nick—and an executive with hired positions to do administrative work, so Nick could focus on pulling off fantastic shows,” Orenstein says.
Halley and the executive of the Chorus are already planning a concert for the end of each semester in the upcoming academic year, with both celebrating the society’s fifth anniversary.
The fall concert will be in honor of St. Cecelia, the patron saint of music, and the spring concert will be “a mind-blowing collaboration of musicians,” as Orenstein puts it.
Auditions for the Chorus occur in early September, and White maintains auditions will remain as open and stress-free as when she first tried out.
“My initial audition was painless. I sang part of a folk song and then Nick played a few chords on the piano and asked me to match the pitch,” she explains.
Those auditioning can sing any song of their choosing, which encourages many renditions of Happy Birthday. Despite re-audition not being a requirement, some members even return to sing it.
For the new school year, Nick Halley hopes students eschew their nervousness when thinking about auditioning and simply audition.
“People show up and they say, ‘Oh I can’t sing, I was told that by my second grade teacher,’ or, ‘when I sing in the shower my roommate slams the door shut and runs out of the house screaming,’” Halley laughs.
“But I’ve seen so many new members who caught the singing or music bug in the Chorus. They absolutely catch fire.”