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Mount Holyoke's Commencement Weekend

Commencement Activities at a Glance

About the Honorary Degree Recipients

Trustees Name Four Faculty Members to Endowed Chairs

Melhorn to Lead Alumnae
Glee Club Choir in
Great Britain

Hannah Alexander '05 Is Passionately Making a Difference

MHC Newsmakers

MHC Milestones

MHC Notices

Happenings

Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives
May 20, 2005

Melhorn Leads Alumnae Glee Club Choir in Great Britain


 
Catharine Melhorn
  Catharine Melhorn
To keep up to date on the trip, visit the
daily blog

This month, Catharine Melhorn, Hammond-Douglass Professor of Music and Mount Holyoke’s choral director, is leading a choir of alumnae singers to Great Britain to compete in the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod. The Eisteddfod is a prestigious Welsh music festival that draws some of the best choruses and performers from around the world. Mark Gionfriddo, director of the MHC Jazz Ensemble, instructor, accompanist, and Catholic music director, is accompanying the alumnae choir on piano. Music instructor Alison Hale ’75 is both singing with the choir and performing as solo flutist.

“This is a wonderful way to celebrate the choral program at Mount Holyoke,” said Melhorn, who will retire in the spring of 2006 after 36 years at the College. “This event has been more than a year in the planning, and reconnecting with all these women has been great fun for me already.”

Melhorn said she has always wanted to take a Mount Holyoke choir to the Eisteddfod, but was never able to because students have such varied summer schedules. Having put together an alumnae chorus in 2000, she decided to test the waters for an Eisteddfod group. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and she has assembled a talented chorus for the Wales competition. “We know our competition will be hot stuff,” she said.
“Some of the groups have been together for many years, and we will have been together for two and a half days. It’s courageous, but I think not foolish.”

Melhorn is very pleased with the singers she has chosen. From some 90 applications, she culled 67 singers, the oldest of whom is Nina Foster ’49. There are three members in the class of 2006, and one from this year’s graduating class, Frances Perkins Scholar Anne Vittoria (profiled in CSJ 11/19/04). The women represent many professions—including doctors, lawyers, judges, and teachers. Some sing in professional groups, while others have not done choral singing since their days at Mount Holyoke. “But those women are really dedicated to this, and I know they will come well prepared,” said Melhorn. To help her singers prepare, Melhorn created a practice CD for each choral part.

The group convened in South Hadley on June 30, practiced for two days, and gave a bon voyage concert in Abbey Chapel on July 2. Then it was off to London, where the chorus is performing in a recital series in Mayfair’s Grosvenor Chapel, a well-known venue for choral music. From London, the singers are travelling to Wales for one more concert, shared with a Welsh male voice choir in Chepstow, before arriving at the Eisteddfod. The chorus’s repertoire includes classical works by Pergolesi and Brahms, folk-derived choral arrangements, and music from the African American tradition.

“Our goal is to hone our skills and make us better singers,” said Melhorn. “Winning isn’t the point.” She noted that several tours abroad for Mount Holyoke choral groups had been cancelled in the wake of 9/11, and that “we are now especially eager to renew Mount Holyoke’s tradition of international choral outreach.”

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