Honors Chamber Singers Expands Music Department’s Reach

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The Chorus program at Williston is quickly becoming more competitive with the addition of Honors Chamber Singers.

For the first time, an audition only, honors level chorus class is being offered at Williston. This class is known as Honors Chamber Singers, and they are working hard to try to bring singing to the forefront of the arts programs.

For the majority of Williston’s existence, some sort of chorus class has been offered every year. Most recently, the classes offered to students were called Widdigers and Caterwaulers, and they were open to anybody that signed up. Widdigers was the female chorus and Caterwaulers was the male singers.

This year, however, the landscape has changed. Chamber Singers were required to audition virtually during the summer by sending in recordings of themselves singing along with prerecorded audio files. These recording were then evaluated and scored, and the students with the top scores for each singing part were selected to be in the group.

Colin Mann, Williston’s Choral Director, was a major contributor to the evaluations and has been leading the charge with Honors Chamber Singers. He wanted to create an advanced class for students that were passionate about singing and wanted to make it a serious commitment in their everyday lives on campus.

“It came to my attention that singers here wanted and advanced options to sing.” he said. “[Last year] We were only meeting once a week, if that, and were lucky to have everyone in attendance. So just like other standard and honors level courses here we decided we’d push for a class because we’d have more time to do more content and to develop a better sound together, and people wanted that.”

With this year being the groups inaugural year, there have been many unprecedented issues involving Covid-19 that the group has had to adjust to. Masks are required at all times on campus, including during chorus classes, which has added a new challenge to singing together as a group.

“I think it’s all going ok,” said Mann. “Obviously it’s not ideal with masks but I think we’ve been able to make some great sounds. Everything this year is just a little slow-going. We have to navigate people’s day to day activity, frustration, and joy, and I think everybody is just happy to be together. We’re lucky to be doing this.”

Nathan Shatz, a senior day student from Northampton, has liked the class so far compared to the other chorus classes offered on campus. He realizes Covid has brought challenges to singing this year, but there have been some positives to go along with it.

“Due to the nature of signing, Covid protocols have significantly hampered our ability to sing in a group as we have in years past,” he said. “I’ve taken three trimesters of Caterwaulers and I always felt I benefited from rehearsing and performing in the smaller room around a piano. To accommodate for such a large HCS group, we must have class in the chapel- a building with echoing acoustics that often make it hard to hear others.”

“I have found that these protocols have improved my independent musicianship, however, because it is no longer possible to fully rely on the tone and tempo of your fellow singers,” he said.

For Nathan, just getting the opportunity to sing in a group at school has been a great way to connect with other students, and he thanks Mr. Mann for his hard work in making this chorus come together.

“I’ve enjoyed HCS immensely, especially because it allows me to connect with my peers in ways, I haven’t been able to do since March,” he said. “I think we have a talented and hard-working group of singers, which makes the creative musical process free-flowing and joyful. I appreciate Mr. Mann’s hard work in giving us all the opportunity to sing during these extraordinary times.”