The chorus to Goshen’s anthem begins with “Goshen College, ever singing,” and if you hadn’t noticed, music does indeed ring through the dorm halls, the cafeterias, the sidewalks, and of course, the music center. Most recently, Goshen’s choirs were showcased in the Earthtones concert last Saturday.
Over 100 students congregate in the music center for four-and-a half hours per week to sing, under the tutelage of directors Debra Brubaker and Scott Hochstetler, and accompanist Christine Seitz. While some are required to join as a fulfillment of their music majors, the majority are simply lured by the joy of singing. It’s a significant time commitment for any college student, but for many choir members, including senior Jake Miller, it is worth it.
“I love being in a group of people who all are working toward a common goal,” said Miller, “where differences and egos must be set aside in order to achieve that goal. It is so much larger than one person. Being able to share the creative process with others who share the same passion is intellectually and emotionally stimulating. I have no problem giving up four-and-a-half hours a week to do this.”
Selections for the Earthtones concert featured songs from many cultures, bringing both the excitement of learning about a different culture and the challenge of foreign languages.
“I had two thoughts before Earthtones,” said Nate Day, a sophomore. “The first was ‘Is it going to be a problem that I don’t know the words to any of these songs?’ and the second was a deadening thud in the bass clef with piercing overtones: ‘Vovovavovavovavovovavovavova” and “ooooooooeeeeeeeeoooaaaaaaaaaaaaa’ Try getting THAT out of your head.” Overtones refer to the high-pitched tones created by making an ooowa-owwa sound with one’s mouth. Difficult to explain in words, a demonstration from Ben Hoover or Allen Shenk can lead to better understanding.
This concert featured a wide-range of student talent from original arrangements to three student-conducted songs. Senior Karla Santiago conducted the Women’s World Music Choir in a Japanese children’s song, “Hotaru Koi,” sung in the dark while using flashlights to represent fireflies.
“I was freaking out,” said Santiago. “Terrible images were running through my head; people not remembering their flashlights, people not seeing my cue to start, and of course every directors worst fear, mass choir brain-fart in the middle of a piece. Once on stage, however, things changed. I was looking at all the women I’ve been working with over the semester and saw that everything was going to be fine. I trusted these women, and I knew they were going to be awesome. From the first ‘ho’ to the last, I was all smiles, even though no one could tell in the dark.”
Arranger and student conductor Patrick Ressler talked about the stress and joy of conducting one’s peers.
“It’s definitely a different kind of stress than performing; there’s a lot that rides on your shoulders,” he said, “but you can rest assured in the fact that you’ve already put in most of the work. It takes a lot of trust on the conductor’s part, as well as on the choir’s part. I’m honored and grateful to have the experience of conducting and rehearsing Goshen College choirs.”
From the audience perspective, it looked like the choir members were having fun—which they admitted to.
“I really enjoyed the song ‘Cloudburst,'” said Aaron Kauffman, member of the Men’s Chorus and Chorale. “It is a great song, and it was fun to play—more like violently shake—the thunder sheet.”
Ever effusive, Miller added, “My favorite song was the Bollywood pop song, ‘Jai-Ho.’ I had to contain myself from dancing because the rhythm is infectious!”
“Also, I think the men’s choir did the Coldplay song a heck of a lot better than that band could ever do,” he added about their performance of “Fix You.”