Sing and dance with MSU’s various ensembles

Minnesota State’s singing groups, the Chamber Singers and the University Gospel Choir, performed Tuesday in Halling Recital Hall in the Earley Center for Performing Arts. MSU students and the Mankato community were invited to watch the powerful performances of both choirs. 

The Chamber Singers were directed by Elisabeth Cherland, Director of Choral Activities, who performed a set of traditional vocal chamber composition while the University Gospel Group was under the direction of Courtland Pickens, a premier vocalist from Minneapolis. 

Junior Bailey Kowarsch, a music education major with a theater minor, forms part of the gospel choir. Being an alto saxophone player herself, Kowarsch decided to join University Chorale to learn more about singing and its elements. That led to her joining the gospel choir that started last semester. 

“One of our professors actually got someone who lives in the Cities and that’s our teacher. And it’s very interesting because I’m not a choir person, but I’ve been told that in choir you have music that you can read off of, and he teaches us completely with just lyrics like no actual music without just telling us it,” Kowarsch said. “It’s really interesting. It’s cool. It’s very unique and as a non-choir person, it kind of helps me be able to understand a little.”

Preparations for the performance have been ongoing for Kowarsch and the group, taking place once a week. 

“We have this packet of songs and every week, he taught us a new song by just the lyrics and then singing it for us and we repeat it to him,” she said. “Then splitting it up into parts like the tenor, tenor bass, alto, soprano parts and making it all come together. And then, once we kind of got all the songs we wanted, we just prepare them and keep practicing, rehearsing.” 

Kowarsch said the process of selecting and practicing the songs with the group. 

“We have this packet, and we did a chunk of them last semester. And then he just kind of picked them. He was like, ‘I’m gonna teach you this one today,’ And we’re like, ‘Okay, cool.’ And some of them we even have a song that’s not even in the lyric sheet,” Korwarsch said. “He just taught us it because it’s only four lines long so it’s pretty easy to remember. Otherwise, he would be like, ‘We’re gonna learn this one today.’ And then we would just learn it and then there were a few songs where if it didn’t go very well, he’d say, ‘Okay, maybe we’ll put that one on a back burner.’”

The concert was introduced by a pre concert performed by the Chamber String Ensemble. The Chamber Singers then introduced their pieces, one of which originated  from the late Renaissance, titled “All Ye Who Music Love.”

The gospel choir performed last, singing a cover of “Easy on Me” by Adele and two songs from Sounds of Blackness, a vocal and instrumental ensemble from Minneapolis, with few other soulful pieces that incorporated dances, solos from the members and participation from the crowd.

For the performance, Kowarsch said she has found ways to calm down nerves such as finding comfort in the music and saying how “it’s really helpful when you’re a part of a group and you’re all just there to have fun.”

“The cool thing about gospel music is that it’s very just uplifting. So it’s kind of more fun to perform; you’re performing more than just standing up there and singing. I think that helps with the nerves,” she said.

Write to Anahi Zuniga at anahi.zuniga@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: The Chamber Singers and the University Gospel Choir groups at Minnesota state performed Tuesday evening in the Early Center for Performing Arts. (Courtesy mrcourtlandp Instagram)

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