Author: Melina Devoney
A beautiful solemness floated throughout Thorne Hall Oct. 17 as director Désirée La Vertu conducted Glee Club in the first piece of its Homecoming Concert — a fast-paced Latin hymn titled “Justorum Animae.”
The mood swiftly warmed as the singers began “Hosanna in excelsis” by Brent Pierce. The song felt like a bouncy sleigh ride, much like holiday music, as the chorus quickly alternated between high and low notes. The last chord rang through the auditorium so sharply that it elicited shivers from the audience.
Intense classical selections comprised the first act of the concert. Because none of the songs were in English, Glee Club members used large, sad eyes, longing smiles or peppy gestures to convey their message. At times, the showmanship of the singers was more captivating than the lyrics and melodies.
According to Glee Club member Kyle Dalton (junior), La Vertu encourages her singers to emotionally engage themselves in the songs, which triggers those passionate expressions on stage.
“Some people really feel it and really get into it,” Dalton said.
The first act ended with “Daemon Irrupt Collides,” which seemed to be pulled straight out of a nightmare. It was hurried and aggressive like a soundtrack to a chase scene.
Glee Club then gave the stage to Occidental’s smaller ensembles.
The Bengalshop Quartet, which is actually comprised of seven Occidental students, cleared the looming tension with their quirky rendition of “Little Patch of Heaven” from Disney’s “Home on the Range.” Directed by Declan Meagher (senior) and Aidan Dougherty (junior), the chorus brought the right amount of sappy showmanship. Meagher even elicited an impressed chuckle out of audience members with his high-range harmonies.
The all-female group, The Accidentals, and all-male group, Cadence, subsequently performed, bringing contemporary, popular hits to the stage.
The concert concluded with Glee Club’s annual performance of Occidental’s 1917 “Football Medley” and “Occidental Fair.” Glee Club invited its alumni — and Oswald the Tiger — to join the singers on stage for these songs, which were accompanied by silly dances. Glee Club member Jessica May (senior) said that this finale is one of her favorite parts of the show.
“The homecoming concert is always fun because it is also parents’ weekend so we get a lot of alumni from all over the country who are coming to see us,” May said. “I always enjoy the audience’s energy.”
Glee Club is now focusing on perfecting its repertoire for its holiday concert in December and its East Coast tour to Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia in January.
The club performs on local tours annually, and travels internationally every four years. Recent destinations include San Francisco, Spain and Portugal. This year the members will bundle up for the bitter East Coast winter.
“One of the reasons we are so excited about going to this area is that we have a lot of kids in the Glee Club from that area,” May said. “It is a lot of fun because there are a lot of people they know, family and friends, who will come out to see us.”
According to May, touring opens up opportunities to grow their audience and build a reputation for the club and the college. She said that venues sometimes invite them back to perform again.
La Vertu plans to build off of the Homecoming Concert compilation to create a 60- to 90-minute concert suitable for the tour. She will select some classical and religious music that is appropriate for venues in which they will perform, such as the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., balanced with secular music from a variety of cultures.
“I spend a lot of time in the summer listening and looking at piles of choral music and choose the ones that call out to me,” La Vertu said.
She tries to play into the vocal strengths of the returning singers and makes an educated guess about what the new members will be able to achieve.
With the success of the Homecoming Concert, the newcomers and veterans alike set a high bar for themselves this year.
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