Last Sunday, the sizeable crowd inside the Church of the Holy Spirit waited quietly for Colla Voce, Kenyon’s all-female, treble-voiced, classical vocal group, to begin their fall concert.
After a light applause ushered seven women onto the stage, a tense silence followed. A western sun illuminated only one of the stained glass windows behind them, casting an affectionate light on the singers.
From the first note, it was clear this show was to exceed whatever expectations people brought with them. Jaws visibly dropped as the group softly commanded the crowd with their first, brief song, “Under the Greenwood Tree,” which borrows its lyrics from William Shakespeare’s play As You Like It.
Delicately clutching thin, black binders that sent little flecks of light scampering across the floor, the seven members ﾗ Lindsey Corbett ’14, Ally Schmaling ’14, Ali Stamatoiu ’14, Lily Zwaan ’14, Julia Morris ’15, Kate Markey ’16 and Rioghnach Robinson ’16 ﾗ captivated the audience for the entire concert with a pan-global repertoire and impressive precision.
They softly turned out beautiful melodies with only a single note from the pitch pipe and a brief wave of the hand for tempo to begin each piece.
The group’s cohesion throughout the show was remarkable. Like a seven-headed creature, their notes blended together marvelously and their syllables were unanimous: their hard t’s and c’s always seemed to fall exactly in the same place. Even their cut offs, an overly ignored part of music, were impeccable ﾗ each woman lifted off of the notes in graceful unison. Even without the direction of a conductor, the group still managed to make each phrase complete and singular. The only signs given would occur at the end of the song, when a brief nod of the head would mark the occasion.
Standing before the crowd clad in black, some wore heels and tights while others wore boots and blazers. This single unifying color made them appear as though one collective entity had been drawn out into seven individuals, and their sound reflected the aesthetic.
The group uniformly interpreted the songs as they performed, depicting various emotions with visible confidence and poise.
A smile would catch hold and send a wave through the group at one moment, and at solemn moments the group followed suit.
The set list consisted of songs taken from all over the map, and their treatment of foreign tongues was deft. “Lan Hua Hua,” a traditional Chinese folk song, was performed so fluently that the words fit right in alongside familiar European languages. This enhanced the quality of the set as a whole because it gave the experience a sense of placelessness. Rather than a simple smattering of songs from all over the planet, they came together to provide complex, classical, world music in which no particular dialect stood out to the point of alienation.
While each song was thoroughly enjoyable, two that stood out were “And Will A’Not Come Again?” a dark canon by Matthew Harris, who took the text from Hamlet, and “Uraren Besotik,” from Basque composer Eva Ugalde.
The group finished their performance by closing their binders and singing their traditional closing number, “The Parting Glass,” a song that turned still gaping jaws into smiles on each of the individuals in attendance.