Titled the “Sounds of Fall,” Cal Poly Choirs will take to the Harman Hall stage in the Performing Arts Center to perform various selections that represent the spirit of fall for their annual concert on Oct. 24.
Thomas Davies, who has been the director of choral activities for 27 years, will conduct each of the three ensembles, including PolyPhonics, The University Singers and The Early Music Ensemble.
From well-known selections such as Beethoven’s “Hallelujah” to more obscure songs such as Knut Nystedt ‘s “Cry Out and Shout,” the choirs will perform three to four pieces each from standing choral risers illuminated by beaming lights.
“We call this our debut concert as it introduces this year’s choirs to our audience,” Davies said. “I like the student performers to work on their performance skills early in the year.”
The concert will feature new students who were selected during auditions held the first week of fall quarter. This quarter about 35 news students were welcomed into the choirs, making a total of about 125 students, Davies said.
Emily Allyn, a music junior and member of PolyPhonics, The Early Music Ensemble and Cal Poly’s women’s barbershop quartet, feels that despite adding a number of new students, the new and returning choir members are blending well.
“It’s a good transition into the new quarter to be able to sing next to new people every year,” Allyn said.
Members of the Cal Poly Choirs come from all over the university. More than 80 percent are not music majors. There are students from engineering, architecture, agriculture, math and science and liberal arts. All of the choirs are also a mix of men and women, Davies said.
The students are divided into three choirs, each offering a different style.
PolyPhonics is a highly select, mixed chamber ensemble and has 42 members.
PolyPhonics will be singing a piece titled “Nächtens” which means “At night.” It tells the story of a person who has some frightening dreams at night and wakes up in tears. The piano accompaniment is very “spooky” sounding, making it appropriate for a concert around Halloween, Davies said.
The University Singers are known for singing sacred, worldly works that are both recent and old. There are 60 to 80 members, depending on the quarter.
The University Singers will sing a piece titled “Im Herbst” which means “In Fall.” It was written by a composer from the first half of the 19th century, Fanny Hensel. She is the sister of the famous composer, Felix Mendelssohn.
The Early Music Ensemble performs vocal music, which is written before 1750 and includes works from the Renaissance, Baroque and early Classic periods.
The three choirs wasted no time preparing for the fall concert, each rehearsing four days a week for 50 minutes each time beginning the second week of the quarter.
Even before the choirs started rehearsing, Davies was working early in the summer to put together the music selections to be performed.
Despite the short, four-week preparation time, the selections seem to be coming together well, Allyn said.
“I feel like we’re getting really prepared in a short amount of time. The best part is when you hear everything come together. I have a different joy about singing during the performance than in practice,” Allyn said. “It’s kind of like in sports. The actual performance is nothing like the actual game.”
Lisa Figel, a music junior and member of PolyPhonics, agreed that the most gratifying part of the process is the actual performance.
“When we’re finished and everybody is clapping and encoring it’s the best feeling. Just knowing that people are enjoying it is great,” Figel said.
This concert has been in production for about 10 years and still every year draws in a large crowd between 400 and 600 audience members, Davies said.
With such a large audience, members of the choirs try their best not to let their nerves get the best of them.
“The PAC (Performing Arts Center) is huge and I only perform there like three or four times a year. In high school I performed on the same, small stage all the time so the PAC is a really different experience. Looking out at all the lights and all the people can be really nerve-racking,” Allyn said. “After like two minutes of performing though I settle in and it’s fine.”
In addition to the many vocalists, the performance is completed by two accompanists including Paul Woodring, who is also the Campus Organist, and Susan Azaret Davies, who teaches piano skills and piano accompanying classes at Cal Poly. The accompanists will be playing on a grand piano on stage.
With talented vocalists and accompanists, Figel thinks that this concert will be one not to miss.
“There will be a lot of beautiful poetry, outstanding soloists, and Take it SLO (an a cappella ensemble) will be performing as well and they are really fun to watch,” Figel said.