The University of Redlands Chapel Singers and Bel Canto Choir arrived by bus on the Marin campus last Saturday night chanting the “Och Tamale.” Perhaps they were warming up their voices, or perhaps they were tired of sitting on a bus and needed some energy to prepare them for the next day’s concert. In any case, I can say with confidence that it was the first time the Och Tamale was chanted by students on this newest campus of the University of Redlands.
In the fading light of Sunday afternoon, about 80 alumni, students, parents, and friends gathered on the terrace outside Geneva Hall for a reception prior to the concert. Mt. Tamalpais was the perfect backdrop as the Chapel Singers and Bel Canto Choir each performed one song. Their voices carried out over the entire campus and surrounding neighborhood drawing in many more concert attendees. The Chapel Singers’ “Hail Holy Queen” directed by Nichole Andrews, director of choral studies, was particularly beautiful both in its sound and deep meaning being performed on the holy ground of the one of the seminary’s labyrinths.
Joe Modica, newly appointed School of Music director, encouraged us to enter the Stewart Chapel for the formal performance. Bel Canto began by standing in various places around the chapel. Their voices drew us in and lifted us up. A highlight was their Macedonian folk song, “Makedonska Humoreska” by Todor Skalovsk.
The pinnacle of the evening was the Chapel Singers’ “elements” composed by Katerina Gimon, which started in total darkness and silence. As their voices began to rise, the altar lit up with moving images of each of the four elements, each time changing with the melody. With permission of the composer, the video was produced by Michael Raco-Rands, the stage and equipment coordinator for the School of Music.
As the concert ended and I was left alone in the Stewart Chapel, I took a moment to reflect. I’ve long admired those who can sing. When I hear a voice, lifting its melody upward, I wonder where it comes from. I know there are mechanics in the body involved, but my voice does not sound like those who can actually sing. When I hear a group of voices in chorus, I am doubly impressed. How can one voice join another, which joins another, until there is a whole new experience? It’s truly wonderful to listen to a song from a choir of individuals who somehow come together to make one sound.
That’s what I experienced Sunday evening in the Stewart Chapel on the Marin Campus.