The Berea College Concert Choir is a vocal ensemble of about 60 undergraduate men and women chosen by audition each year from the Berea College student body. Choir members represent the true diversity of Berea College in all its aspects—ethnic background, race, nationality, and major. Music majors comprise about one-quarter of the membership. The choir performs several concerts each year both on and off campus. Occasionally, the group travels on major international concert tours. Repertoire consists of both sacred and secular choral literature in several languages chosen from a variety historical periods, including anthems, motets, masses, folk songs, spirituals, popular music, and music theatre selections. The conductor of the choir is Dr. Stephen Bolster, Mary W. McGaw Endowed Chair in Music. Concert Choir is an academic course at Berea College (MUS 131), and members can earn .25 course credit for each semester of participation. The Concert Choir was formed in 1949 to develop an appropriate Sunday evening music program for weekly chapel services at the college, which were then required. In fact, the group was originally called the Chapel Choir for that reason. For more than 60 years, the choir has given inspirational performances at the college and for audiences in most states east of the Mississippi River, Canada, Europe, and Asia.
A Truly Global Ensemble
The choir has recently returned from an exhilarating international concert tour to Spain and Portugal in May, 2014. The choir performed in major churches and cathedrals in four Spanish cities (Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Seville) and two Portuguese cities (Faro, Lisbon). In the summer of 2007, the choir toured for two weeks in China, performing for large audiences in five cities and on Chinese television. In May and June of 2002, the ensemble toured in Italy and Switzerland, including performances in Rome, Lucerne, Florence, and Venice. In January 1994, the choir performed in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. In previous years, the choir has also presented concerts in England, Wales, the Netherlands, France, Poland, and Russia.
Breathtaking Line-up of Venues
The Concert Choir has performed in many of the world’s great concert venues and churches, including Music Hall in Cincinnati, Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, the Beijing Concert Hall, the Vatican in Rome, the Duomo in Sienna, the Dom in Salzburg, the Abby Church in Melk, the Jesuitenkirche in Lucerne, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and the Basilica (Shrine of the Immaculate Conception) and National Cathedral in Washington, DC. Other notable performances include programs at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, TN, at Disney World and Epcot Center in Florida, and appearances with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, the Lexington Philharmonic, and the United States Marine Band . The choir has performed several times for the annual In-Service Conference of the Kentucky Music Educators Association. Twice the choir has participated by invitation in the American Negro Spiritual Festival in Cincinnati’s Music Hall. Each spring, the choir makes a week-long concert tour in the United States. The choir’s annual on-campus schedule includes major concerts in the fall and spring semester, a Homecoming Weekend performance, and participation in the Music Program’s annual Concert of Christmas Music.
Sixteen to twenty members of the Concert Choir are selected by audition each semester for membership in a smaller vocal ensemble called the Chamber Singers. The group specializes in Renaissance and twentieth-century vocal chamber music. The Chamber Singers perform in college chapel services about once per month, and appear with the Concert Choir at all of its concerts. They also maintain their own separate concert schedule both on and off campus. Chamber Singers are a separate academic course from the choir, and members can earn .25 course credit for each semester of participation in the ensemble.