North Texas Daily

Choir group performs a cappella around Texas

Choir group performs a cappella around Texas

Choir group performs a cappella around Texas
January 27
00:08 2015

Kayleigh Bywater / Staff Writer

Anxiously waiting for their cue, students of the UNT A Cappella Choir are preparing for another day of practice for their upcoming concert. On director of choral studies Jerry McCoy’s go ahead, the room suddenly becomes full with 52 voices singing an array of notes in various tones as the group begins the set of songs it has practiced for months.

The A Cappella Choir was started in 1938 by Wilfred Bain, the chair of the music department at the time. Now, it has blossomed into a choir that has won many prestigious honors and awards for UNT.

McCoy has been with UNT since 2000 and has had the responsibility of leading the A Cappella Choir since.

“When I got to UNT, being the director of the A Cappella Choir was a part of the job description,” McCoy said. “However, it was not anything I did not already want. I was ecstatic to lead this talented group of musicians.”

Joining the choir

In order to become a member of the choir, students must go through an audition process at the beginning of the semester. With more than 200 students applying, the auditions can be very competitive. 

Students must complete a sight-reading test, sing a piece for McCoy and the other choir directors, and practice scales in order to check their range. It is also imperative that the possible new candidates sing with the existing members to see how their voices will blend together.

“My freshman year was the first time I auditioned for a cappella,” vocal performance junior Eleni Kotzabassis said. “I remember being so nervous because callbacks can be quite intimidating when only a few spots are available. When we all get together and sing, though, magic happens.”

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Members of UNT’s A Cappella choir will perform on Feb. 10 at St. Monica’s Cathedral in Dallas. Students can attend the concert for free. Photo courtesy of the choir’s Facebook.

Even though the A Cappella Choir is the highest choral group students can get into at UNT, all levels are allowed to participate in auditions.

Although new to the school, choral music freshman Michael Grijalva was able to become a part of the nationally recognized choir.

“Being a freshman with a younger voice than each person can be a challenge,” Grijalva said. “But I love being able to sing with people who have years of experience and older voices to help me know where I have a possibility of being in a few years.”

Performance ready

When auditions are out of the way and the choir has started to get the hang of new voices, the members spend time practicing for performances and concerts.

On Feb. 10, the A Cappella Choir will have its first concert of the 2015 year at St. Monica’s Cathedral in Dallas, and on Feb. 12-14 the choir will perform in San Antonio as part of the Texas Music Educators Association conference.

UNT’s A Cappella Choir was one of two collegiate choirs from Texas invited to sing at the conference. The conference will requite participants to sing different types of music from different time periods.

“We sing everything from Bach to contemporary music,” women’s choral director Peter Steenblik said. “We have songs that are still in manuscripts and not published, but we also sing songs that have been around for 400 to 500 years. It is such a wide range, which allows for these students to show off their talents.”

Vocal performance junior Susannah Woodruff said even though the process of learning songs can be difficult at times, the end result is beautiful.

“I love showing how versatile the choir can be in terms of musical style,” Woodruff said. “The music we sing is a mix of classic choral pieces and works by contemporary composers. My favorite piece we are currently singing is either ‘Star Sonnet’ by Elder or ‘Sfogava con Le Stelle’ by Monteverdi. It is just such a wide, beautiful variety.”

With each performance that passes, McCoy said he is grateful to be able to work with such talented students.

“I cannot begin to choose what song or performance has been the best,” McCoy said. “Everything this group sings is amazing, and each thing they do is my favorite.”

Lessons for a lifetime

Vocal performance senior Martin Clark said the A Cappella Choir has taught him that even though he is planning on being a solo singer in the future, working with a group is just as rewarding.

“It is an amazing experience to get to collaborate with other singers just as passionate as you are,” Clark said. “Even though solo singing is a lot different than singing in a group setting, everyone is able to still come together in order to make one unified sound.”

Kotzabassis said the A Cappella Choir teaches its members how to work together for the good of society and self.

“I have improved over the years in so many ways because I am surrounded by so many talented musicians who want to share their talent with the world,” Kotzabassis said. “My favorite quote from Dr. McCoy is when he tells us we ‘do not just sing to make pretty sounds, but instead to change peoples’ lives.’ I love that. To me, that is what music should represent.”

Featured Illustration by Jake Bowerman – Senior Staff Illustrator

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