College Choir Collaborates for Hershey Performance

The Dickinson College Choir joined forces with the Hershey Symphony Orchestra, Hershey Symphony Festival Chorus and the Lebanon Valley College Choir on April 17 for a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Hershey, Pa.

Although the choir has collaborated with other ensembles before, including the Dickinson Orchestra, Collegium, Jazz Ensemble, Dickinson Improvisation and Collaboration Ensemble (DICE) and the Dance Theatre Group, they have not performed with an external professional ensemble since 2005.

The challenge of performing a large work such as Beethoven’s Ninth with other ensembles outside of Dickinson required different means of preparation than would normally be taken with a standard choir concert. In preparation for this past Friday’s performance, the choir not only rehearsed the music, but also participated in a language coaching to ensure they would be ready for when all of the choirs came together.

“We had weekly rehearsals of the music, including a language coaching with Assoc. Prof. [of German] Sarah McGaughey, who gave us an introduction to German and the meaning of Schiller’s text (the Ode to Joy),” said Associate Professor of Music Amy Wlodarski, who is the director of the choir. “Our students are so well versed in learning languages and I think that helps them to hear and reproduce the new sounds that one finds in a language like German.”

According to Wlodarski, the goal of the rehearsal process is to know the music securely and be able to be flexible and adaptive to another conductor’s interpretations. At this particular performance, the conductor was Dr. Sandra Dackow of the Hershey Symphony.

“We didn’t begin rehearsing with the other groups until the week before the concert but our rehearsals didn’t feel rushed,” said Kitson Smyth ’17. “Our conductors worked together on warm ups that exercised our voices before singing and practiced the more difficult sections of the movement.”

According to Morgan Bates ’18, another choir member, the sectionals and language coaching helped to ensure that by the time the other ensembles came together, students felt prepared

“I was thrilled with the choir’s performance,” said Wlodarski. “They brought this monumental piece to life, and it was a performance and experience I am sure they will remember for a lifetime.”

Students shared this sentiment, agreeing that the experience of being able to perform a musical work as widely known as this one was memorable.

“Many professional singers don’t even get the chance to sing the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. It’s just not something that many orchestras have the guts, stamina and chops to pull off,” said Bates. “That being said, we did it, and we all can now say that we sang one of the most well-known orchestral symphonies by one of the most influential composers of all time. Not only was it a wonderful experience — it was a monumental moment in our lives as musicians.”

Senior Dana Lopatin ’15 stated that this was a great way to end her college choir experience: “On the one hand, I am so sad to think about leaving a choir that has helped me grow as a singer and as a person. I love being able to sing with so many other people who love to sing too. On the other hand, Beethoven’s Ninth is all about the brotherhood of humanity and feeling joyful, and I am so grateful for the moments of joy I’ve had as part of this choir. It was a great way to both encompass and culminate my experience, and makes me excited to continue singing in the future.”