We know that music — choral singing especially — connects us with others and provides true recreation for the soul. Our singers often claim they leave even the most demanding rehearsals with new energy to face the long night ahead and to tackle that essay due in the morning or that lab report due yesterday! Performances and tours are among the true highlights of a college career, and friendships forged in MHC choral ensembles last a lifetime. Scroll down to learn more about the three different ensembles.
The Chorale (Music 193) is an auditioned ensemble open to students, faculty, staff, and community members. The ensemble meets once per week on Mondays from 7:30 – 10 pm in McCulloch Auditorium. Students receive 1 academic credit per semester.
Each year, Chorale sings in a variety of languages and styles. Sight-reading and music theory are incorporated into rehearsals, balancing musical training with a performance-based curriculum. The bi-annual trips to Boston and New York for the annual Vespers concerts and a number of performances both on campus and in nearby communities are among the highlights of the year for Chorale.
Thousands of people have been involved in singing at Mount Holyoke College, and for many it began right here. If you are interested in belonging to a diverse and supportive musical community, you will certainly find that in Chorale. You will sing great music, make new friends, and have a wonderful time!
The Glee Club (Music 293) is an advanced auditioned ensemble open to students from all four classes, graduate students, faculty, and staff. The group meets twice weekly in McCulloch Auditorium: Mondays 4:30 – 6 pm and Wednesdays 7:30 – 9:45 pm. Students receive 1 academic credit per semester.
The Mount Holyoke Glee Club performs a wide range of music and explores advanced, innovative, and empowering repertoire for adult treble voices. The Glee Club prides itself in challenging expectations of what is possible for collegiate treble choirs, showcasing their diverse programming and rich array of sounds as they travel across the country and around the world. The group travels bi-annually to Boston and New York, and in May of 2019 they will travel to Germany and Austria for a concert tour. Previous choral tours have taken the Glee Club to to South America, Canada, England and Wales, Russia and Sweden, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, the former Yugoslavia, Spain, and Costa Rica, as well as to many parts of the United States.
Joining with some of America's finest collegiate tenor/bass choirs (most recently from Harvard, Cornell, Rutgers, and University of Virginia), the Glee Club regularly performs major choral/orchestral works, such as Haydn's Harmoniemesse, Brahms's Requiem, and Bach's St. John Passion.
The Chamber Singers (Music 297) is a highly select chamber choir of 12 – 18 voices drawn from Glee Club and Chorale. Rehearsals are in the Warbeke Room of Pratt Hall on Tuesdays from 4:30 – 6 pm and Thursdays from 7:30 – 9 pm. Students receive 1 academic credit per semester.
Members of Chamber Singers usually possess excellent music reading skills, and enjoy the greater independence of being one of just a few voices on a part. The group specializes in challenging repertory from the 20th and 21st centuries, but regularly performs works from varied musical periods and genres. While the students in the Chamber Singers are talented and accomplished musicians, they major in a broad range of academic subjects including music, gender studies, biology, politics, psychology and architecture.
History of the Choral Ensembles
There are a number of recordings of past performances available.
In 1877, Miss Charlotte Steele organized a select chorus to give "open air concerts on campus in summer." A student-led Glee Club, Banjo, and Mandolin society existed from the 1880's to the 1920's. "Interested...in social functions rather than in serious musicianship, its programs were modelled on those of the men's college glee clubs and included popular ballads and glees."
In 1893, the year after a department of music was created at Mount Holyoke, Prof. Fletcher formed "a choir...to sing anthems and choruses on Founder's and Commencement Days and at occasional Vespers services." In 1899, College Organist Prof. William C. Hammond organized a College Choral Club, later called the College Choir or "Carol Choir" which became widely celebrated for their annual Christmas Carol Concerts performed on campus and also in Hartford, Philadelphia, Boston, in New York's Town Hall and even (in 1926) at the White House.
Professor Ruth Douglass '23 remained at Mount Holyoke after her graduation, as soloist, vocal coach, Associate Conductor, and, after Hammond's retirement in 1937, as Choral Director, until 1967. In 1937, one student wrote that "the combined membership of the class choirs is more than three hundred, nearly a third of the whole student body. From among the upper-class choirs is selected every year a Glee Club of about a hundred voices." Miss Douglass' Glee Club continued the tradition of annual Christmas concerts in New York City and made a special album for Columbia Records in 1949. Her choirs provided music for compulsory chapel services and frequently performed with collegiate men's choruses.
Juilliard Conservatory graduate Tamara Knell (now Brooks, recently on the faculty at New England Conservatory), Choral Director from 1967-70, led two European concert tours--winning first prize at the Hague International Koorfest -- and introduced Mount Holyoke singers to a wide repertoire of significant choral literature for women's voices.
Professor Catharine Melhorn (with degrees from Smith College, University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Illinois) came to Mount Holyoke in 1970 to direct Concert Choir and was named Choral Director in 1971. Under her quarter century of leadership, Mount Holyoke choirs won critical acclaim throughout the US and abroad (South America, Russia, Sweden, Spain, central and eastern Europe, England and Wales, and Costa Rica).
Kimberly Dunn Adams joined the Mount Holyoke faculty in 2006. Under her direction, all three ensembles continued their legacy of performing diverse and socially relevant repertoire. Miguel Ángel Felipe acted as interim director of the choirs during the 2009-2010 school year while Professor Adams was finishing her doctorate degree at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
Lindsay Summers Pope '07 was the Director of Choral Activities and Visiting Lecturer in Music at Mount Holyoke College from 2011 through 2016. Under her direction, the choral groups performed a challenging, varied repertoire for women's voices, joint concerts for mixed chorus, and led an alumnae tour of Ireland in Summer 2015. All of the choral ensembles continue the tradition of presenting the annual Christmas Vespers concerts on campus, in New York City, and in Boston. Choral music at Mount Holyoke is still going strong, with almost 200 students involved in singing every year.