Over the years, the University of Jamestown’s Concert Choir has earned a decent reputation for its unified sound. Aaron McDermid has led and motivated the group for 12 years. The 48-member choir meets each day of the week for an hour and sometimes organizes weekend retreats.
These weekends not only act as a bonding activity, but a time to practice and work on their group cohesion. McDermid said that retreats make up for almost two weeks of rehearsal time, or nine hours. With the pursuit of unity in mind, the group commits its time in order to reprConesent the university to the best of its ability.
“We're a group of pretty laid back people who enjoy making music with each other, so the friendships sprout up from the ground up,” said Grant Linde, president of the choir board and a senior at UJ.
Group unity allows them to focus on difficult music and earns them many opportunities to travel. Each spring break, the choir tours around the nation.
“As far as tour goes,” Linde said, “there is nothing like 45 people being stuck on a bus together for a week that really drives home unity, even after you feel like killing each other on day three.”
Every four years, however, the group performs overseas. In the past, the Concert Choir has taken trips to China and parts of western and eastern Europe.
“Our concerts overseas and across the country are important for us because it gives us an opportunity to show a greater variety of people our music” Linde said.
During summer of 2018, the group will travel to Italy, visiting Venice, Florence, Calgi and Vatican City. They have been invited to sing for a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, which is a distinguished honor for the choir.
With the Christmas season approaching, the UJ Concert Choir focuses on finalizing its next concert. The annual Christmas concert, a tradition for around 50 years, combines the Concert Choir and Chapel Choir, a separate women’s choir at UJ.
This program, hosted at St. James Basilica in Jamestown, goes beyond a normal concert; readings, specialized movements, and audience participation transforms the concert into a worship service. Throughout the program, members disperse into different areas of St. James Basilica. As an audience member, you may find the choirs in front, beside, behind or surrounding you. This is based on the liturgical, or ritualistic movement built into formal Christian worship services.
“By having the choir start behind the audience while the audience has the program in their hands, it really allows them to focus on the words,” McDermid said. “The readings and lyrics for the songs are not differentiated so it’s laid out like one big story.”
Each year, the concert follows a theme. This year’s theme, “God is Love,” was inspired by “the grim state of unity in the culture right now,” McDermid said. He also said that “the call to love one another” is something he hopes to convey.