Goshen’s Chamber Choir has existed since the 1970s, with a focus in chamber a capella music that highlights the college’s best singers.
The choir grew out of conductor Mary Oyer’s Motet Singers in the 1950s and ‘60s. When Doyle Preheim, a former professor of music, started conducting in the 1970s, the choir became the chamber ensemble that it is today, with the forty-odd years of music demonstrating the growth and dynamic ability of the choir.
Currently, Scott Hochstetler, associate professor of music, is the conductor. This is his fourth year running the Chamber Choir. Hochstetler chooses a variety of music for the group, depending on the singers he is conducting and the way that they fit together.
“I tend choose songs that fit a smaller group better, and primarily we focus on sacred a capella literature,” he said. “It’s pretty broad after that.”
He also looks at picking songs from different cultures, similar to the music chosen for the Women’s World Music Choir.
The Chamber Choir has also done large collaborations with other choirs, like the St. Joseph Valley Camerata, a local semi-professional group that Hochstetler directs.
The Chamber Choir also worked with Garrison Keillor last year. They had the opportunity to go to Kelly Jae’s with Keillor, because he wanted to thank the choir and learn more about the students at Goshen. Over dinner, Keillor spent time talking to them, asking about their lives and what it’s like to be a student at GC.
“At the end of working with him, he thanked the choir, and then gave them each a copy of his book,” said Hochstetler, “He mentioned each of their names on the air, which I thought was very kind and thoughtful. He didn’t have to do that, but he did.”
More recently, the Chamber Choir shared the stage with Bobby McFerrin.
“The focus [of the concert] was on the Chamber Choir, and making stuff up with them, as Bobby said,” said Hochstetler.
Martin Flowers, a senior, has been in the Chamber Choir for the past three years.
“If there’s one thing I could say that really stands out to me this year, it’s the quality of the music we’re making,” Flowers said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of the best choirs I’ll have been involved with in my life.”
Flowers described the practices as both “natural and fun,” and said that the choir members leave feeling fulfilled with the ways they worked together.
“Dr. Hochstetler also pushes us appropriately, so it become the nice balance of working with a director who realizes our potential and pushes us to realize that as well, while still being accessible and friendly and making it an enjoyable experience for everyone,” said Flowers.
Over spring break, the Chamber Choir was able to go on tour. The group has been the main touring choir for GC in the past, although there is now a three-year rotation with the men’s and women’s choirs. The Chamber Choir has traveled across the U.S and into Canada, usually going where GC constituents and Mennonite churches are.
This year’s tour took the choir to New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The group sang at public schools along with the largest Catholic Church in West Virginia and a Methodist church in Ithaca. “We were well received everywhere,” said Hochstetler.
Although they are not sure where they will tour next, Hochstetler said it will be “someplace great” and that they would love to tour internationally.
“[Touring] is as much about the comradery of the group and bringing the group together as it is about the location and what we do,” Hochstetler said.
Paul Zehr, a senior, said that the tour was a highlight of his time in Chamber Choir.
“We got to know each other better and create music in some really unique spaces,” Zehr said. “Now, we have an immense amount of trust in each other and our rehearsals feel more like playing with friends rather than working on music. It’ll be hard to leave.”
The Chamber Choir will be singing next in the Earthtones concert on April 16. Their song selection will include a pop song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” They will also sing the king’s anthem from Thailand, a song from Mexico about a folkloric ghost called La Llorona, a Nigerian folk song and selected songs from their tour.