Section: Arts

Chasing dreams for 50 years: Chasers reflect on history

Chasing dreams for 50 years: Chasers reflect on history

by Julia Waldow

“I thought that you were gone / But now I know you’re with me / You are the voice that whispers all I need to hear.” Current and past Chasers sing these words during every concert as part of their traditional closing number Wanting Memories. Emphasizing the a cappella group’s close-knit ties, the song’s message about lasting relationships was especially applicable during their 50th-anniversary concert this past Friday in Rosse Hall.

“I watched the concert from YouTube [on Sunday], and I was laughing and crying and missing [the Chasers]. I’m really proud of what they’ve done,” former Chaser Rachel Max ’13 said. “Every single year, the group continues and gets better and changes and evolves … every single person has so much love and passion and energy for the group.”

A select group of College choir singers first formed the Chasers in 1964 to sing at a retirement ceremony for the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Right Reverend Arthur Lichtenberger ’23. All-male at the time, the singers originally used instruments and named their group after Philander Chase. After establishing themselves on campus and nationally, the group became known internationally, eventually performing at the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal.

“[The Chasers] had a nice, relaxed style, with natural unforced tone and diction,” Richard d’Anjou, special events officer of the Canadian fair, said of the Chasers’ performance in a 1967 letter.

According to the Chasers’ social media director Gabe Brison-Trezise ’16, who is also the Collegian’s special projects director, certain aspects of the Chasers’ dynamic have evolved since the group’s conception.

“When Kenyon became co-ed [in 1969], they accepted women into the group. They expanded, and at one point, it was about 17 members, which is big even compared to our size now, which is 13 to 15,” Brison-Trezise said. “The style of music has changed a lot too. Back then, we would do barber shop, renaissance, madrigals and fraternity songs, and not really the contemporary pop and rock that we stick to now.”

Still, touring has remained a much-established component of the group’s activities. The week-long, student-run trips that commence during winter break every year are one of the members’ favorite ways to bond and celebrate their talents.

“On tour [during] senior year, I cried every day out of happiness because the group was so incredible,” Max said. “That’s a time during the year when the group really bonds because you spend a week together doing nothing but singing and staying up late. You really get to know each other on a level that you don’t really get to do in rehearsal. We spend so much time with each other every day at school, but we don’t sleep on the same couch. That really transforms the group every year and builds on our relationships.”

The group plans its tour locations around relationships with Kenyon students, families and alumni, according to Co-Music Director Julia Tidona ’14.

“Our first hits [on tour]  are Kenyon Chaser alums, and then we look to contact Kenyon alums in a city. Also, if we have friends or family who have a coffee shop or know a good old folks’ home that likes to invite people to sing, [we go there],” Tidona said. “In D.C., there was a bar that two Kenyon alums owned, and we went to sing. It was packed and really fun. There’s something different about taking a group outside of the Gambier bubble and out into the real world.”

Chasers continue to connect following their graduation, and alumni stay in touch mostly through social media and email. Every five years, the College hosts reunion events, where Chasers such as Max can “connect with generations of Chaser alumni whom I had never met before” and continue to feel close to the singers.

“It’s great that there is a group of people at Kenyon whom I can always come back to and anyone can always come back,” Max said. “You’re always a Chaser.”

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