Last Friday, October 1, the first choir concert was held in the Pine Grove. It contained performances from three different choirs: Chapel Choir, SPERA (named after Hope College’s motto “Spera in Deo” or “Hope in God”), and College Chorus. As found on the Hope website, the difference between these three groups are as follows: “The Chapel Choir is Hope’s premier choral ensemble. Made up of 40 auditioned choristers,” while “’Spera is an auditioned group (made up of 20-30 female singers) that meets twice weekly throughout the fall and spring semesters. This ensemble tackles a wide variety of fine literature for treble voices and has built up quite a following since its inception in 2001 as the Women’s Chamber Choir,” and finally, “Hope’s largest choral ensemble, College Chorus, is composed of music majors and non-majors with varying degrees of choral music experience.”
Each of the choirs had only been practicing for a few weeks before their first performance. Abby Vonk (’25), a member of the Chapel Choir, said that rehearsals are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week for fifty minutes. She explained that rehearsals mainly focused on “working on the rough patches of each song. [We] focus on balance, dynamics, accuracy, and other aspects of each song to prepare for the performance.” When asked about the most challenging piece, Vonk said, “I think all of the Chapel Choir was nervous for our song ‘Surge Amica Mea.’ It was our most challenging song in our set and especially having such a short amount of time to rehearse before the performance, it was nerve-wracking. I believe the performance of the piece went very well. Personally, I’m very proud of all of the Chapel Choir for the hard work everyone put into learning that piece and for nailing it during the concert.”
Another added difficulty for each of the choirs was the fact that the performance was occurring in the Pine Grove as opposed to their usual indoor practice space, the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts. Despite this fact, Vonk thought “The concert went great. Considering it was in an outdoor space where we hadn’t rehearsed before, I think each choir did a phenomenal job performing.” Overall, Vonk stated that “The audience had a very positive reaction to the performances. Based on the feedback during and after the concert, I think everyone enjoyed the concert.”
Another traditional aspect of the Chapel Choir is the 50-year-old robes designed by Charles and Ray Eames—husband and wife designers in the twentieth century. In 1960, the Herman Miller Mixed Chorus disbanded and the robes were given to Hope College, where they became the performing apparel of the Chapel Choir. The four colors of the robe (yellow, orange, red, and purple) represent the four major vocal parts. Yellow represents the singers that reach the highest notes, the sopranos, while purple represents those that hit the lowest notes, the basses. Found in between are the orange altos (the second highest), and the red tenors (the second lowest). Hope College’s website describes the other elements of the robes: “The black horizontal lines represent an extended grand staff, and the other black swatches stand for random notes in the universe. Purity of tone and faith are represented by the prevailing white that appears on every surplice.” Despite the fact that these robes are both vivid and bold, they hold a unique meaning and tradition on Hope’s campus and a historic place in art museums due to their significance in twentieth-century fashion and design.
If you went to this concert and are interested in joining, or you are just looking to get more information on these choirs, contact Professor Eric Reyes (email@example.com). Joining one of these choirs consists of an audition (for Chapel or SPERA) and enlisting in one of the following depending on which choir you choose: Music 115 (Chapel), Music 116 (College Chorus) Music 117 (SPERA). The next choir concert, according to Hope’s calendar, will be on March 12, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts.