You’ll hear their voices raised high in celebration at events like convocation and commencement and at Mass every Sunday night at 7. You may even catch the muffled sounds of rehearsals outside the Chapel of Mary. But you are just as likely to find the members of the Chapel Choir studying together for a final or sharing a laugh over lunch in the Dining Commons.
One of the best aspects of joining the choir for Brittany Anderson ’14 is its welcoming and supportive atmosphere: “I can bring whoever I am that day to the choir and they will accept me.”
For members, that sense of community is a big draw, as is a love of music and singing. In addition to special events on campus and weekly Mass on Sunday, the choir has a number of off-campus performances throughout the year. Combined, the experience allows those who sing to grow in many ways. “There’s a musical education, there’s a life education and there’s a spiritual education going on here,” says Chapel Choir Director Dan Davey, who is the campus minister for music and liturgy.
A place for singers of all abilities
Because the choir accepts members regardless of experience, seasoned singers work with newcomers on everything from pitch to reading music. “There’s a lot of support, giving pointers, encouraging others,” Davey says.
In addition to a breadth of experience, there’s a breadth of material. “I try to have something in there for everyone,” he says. “So we do some more traditional hymns and balance that with some newer more contemporary gospel music.” A favorite of the choir is “Now Is The Time” by Tom Kendzia, which has become its signature piece.
As students learn together, bonds are formed that extend well beyond the brick walls and stained glass windows of the chapel. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of great people through choir,” says Alphonse Riang ’15. “We have dinner together, we hang out before and after choir, so we’ve gotten much closer. It’s a great community.”
A community built on many passions
Choir is also a chance for many students to strengthen their relationship with God. “There’s something about it,” says choir member Bethany Conway ’13. “I’ve just completely grown in my faith life and in my spirituality.” It’s not unusual for choir members to get involved in other aspects of Campus Ministry. Many become cantors and liturgical ministers and join the Into The Streets volunteers program and HOPE alternative spring break trips.
Davey says the interesting part is how this choir also attracts to the chapel students who practice other faiths. “There are many cases where students who are not Catholic are still drawn here because of that sense of community.”
The benefits of choir even extend into the classroom, he explains. “There’s a lot of research on students who are involved in music, and the cognitive map that it creates and how it can strengthen work in other subjects.”
Still, the strengthening most members talk about has to do with faith and friendship. “We look at our lives from a spiritual point of view and how we see God playing a role in our lives and that’s just so cool to me,” says Anderson.
Her experience in choir has instilled a strong desire to make sure others who join also feel the connection and support she feels. “That’s my goal, to make sure people know they’re wanted,” she says. “You’re wanted here. We genuinely want you. Whoever you are, wherever you are in life, we want you here.”