Chorus Spreads Joy At Concert With Handbells, A Capella and Drumming

“Palogo!” shouted the Academy Chorus in unison. The word, meaning “be happy,” served as an energetic ending to the traditional Ghanaian piece, “Kpanlongo,” performed by the Academy Chorus. The percussive vocal parts and the movement provided by the singers reflected the title of the piece, which translates to “the dance where you shake your body around.”

“[‘Kpanlongo’] had a very percussive part in one of the measures,” said Sydney Olney ’17, a member of the Academy Chorus. It took probably the entirety of our rehearsals to get it. It’s really about dancing while you’re singing. Normally, it would be played with drums or something like that and actually looking happy helped a lot too, because without the happiness the song kind of just fell flat.”

The Academy Choral Concert was held last Saturday night in the Cochran Chapel, and featured performances from the Fidelio Society and the Academy Chorus, with supporting accompaniments from select Academy Orchestra players and members of the Handbell Choir. The Academy Chorus performed a variety of pieces that all had a central theme of “joy.”

“[‘Kpanlongo’ was] challenging, super challenging,” said Abbey Siegfried, Co-Director of the Academy Chorus. “The whole piece is built on rhythmic cycles, sort of like a drum circle. So you think of the tradition of African drumming, different drummers lay down rhythms and layer on top of each other and that’s the way the choral parts are built… Every part has a totally different rhythm, so in this piece it’s piecing them all together and sticking them together that makes it so challenging.”

One of the pieces that Fidelio Society performed was “I Beheld Her, Beautiful as a Dove” by Healey Willan. The singers’ voices created a smooth and unified sound in the a capella song. In the different sections of the piece, the singers would separate into different rhythms and harmonies before they finally slowed down and finished together.

“Singing the bass part [of ‘I Beheld Her, Beautiful as a Dove’] is a lot of fun because you get those really low notes. You don’t even hear [the notes] so much as you do feel them,” said Herbie Rimmerman ’17, a member of the Fidelio Society and the Academy Chorus.

The Academy Chorus also sang “The Singing Heart” by Bob Chilcott. During the first third of the piece, the entire chorus sang the same rhythm but with different harmonies. For the second third of the piece, the chorus split into two sections and sang a call and response. The final portion of the piece consisted of a solo by Reader Wang ’18, while the chorus hummed softly in the background. Handbells also accompanied this section, adding a smooth and resonant sound to the piece.

Evelyn Messler ’17, a member of the Fidelio Society and the Academy Chorus, said, “It was hard because it’s really important to stay on tune or keep your pitch the whole time, because if you don’t keep your pitch, the handbells aren’t loud enough for you to be able to adjust your pitch so it’s obvious to the audience if you’re off pitch.”