By Lauren Katz
The self-described fan boys of classical vocals will soon don tuxes for a performance of their own. For five years, Colla Voce has brought classical a cappella music to the Kenyon campus in the form of concerts and Christmas carols. In the process, they even inspired eight Kenyon men to follow a similar path toward their classical music dreams. This coming Sunday, Dec. 14, Kenyon College Männerchor, originally known as “Colla Broce,” will perform in public for the first time in Brandi Recital Hall at 3 p.m.
Männerchor may be an established group now, but they began as a spin-off of Colla Voce last semester. Group president Conor Dugan ’15 jokingly approached Colla Voce member Julia Morris ’15 about forming a group to open for their spring concert.
“[Dugan] came up to me and said, ‘It would be really funny, right? If we got a bunch of the Colla fan boys together from Chamber Singers and we sang a song for you guys and opened your concert,’” Morris said. “I thought that was a great idea, and I talked to Colla about it and they were psyched.”
The joke quickly became a reality. Dugan, along with Sam Larson ’17, Andrew Perricone ’17, Henry Quillian ’17, Will Quam ’14 and Michael Harris ’14, formed a small male a cappella group, and as they sang odes to Colla Voce they even adopted nicknames in tribute to members of the female group.
“They put together ‘Ave Maria,’ and even introduced themselves as joke names of us, so like [Perricone] introduced himself as ‘Laurent’ Melville,” a play on the name of Colla Voce member Lauren Melville ’17, according to Morris. “But they changed the words [of ‘Ave Maria’] to ‘we love, we love Colla Voce,’ so basically a Colla Fan Club.”
And so, Kenyon College Männerchor was born, but their journey was far from over. Performing as a group was a rewarding experience, and they knew they wanted to continue. Quam and Harris graduated along the way, but the remaining four held auditions in the fall of this year. Peter Birren ’15, Austin Cody ’18, Henry Toohey ’18 and James Wojtal ’18 were welcomed with open arms, and the four became an ensemble of eight.
In addition to being a brand-new group, Männerchor dealt with the challenge of holding auditions later in the semester. The original four had been unsure if a concert this year would even be possible.
“What kind of happened is we didn’t start at the beginning of the year with the four original members; we just talked about it,” Dugan said. “We thought, ‘We like the four of us, but then what about new members?’ We just needed to see who would come to us, and we were very lucky we had some very talented people audition.”
Männerchor has attracted musicians with experience in multiple groups on campus. In addition to seven of the eight being members of Chamber Singers, Männerchor includes three members of the Ransom Notes, one member of the Kokosingers and one member of Take Five.
“I was in high school chorus, and they sang mostly classical music,” Toohey said. “I also played the French horn for the last nine or 10 years, and that is definitely only classical music, … [so] I thought this would be fun.”
What attracted Perricone to Männerchor, however, was how its classical repertoire would be different from those of other groups on campus.
“When I first came to Kenyon, I tried out for a couple a cappella groups and didn’t get in,” Perricone said. “But I really wanted to do more classical stuff. I had actually tried to start a group with a couple of my friends and it just didn’t really pan out. We were all freshmen and trying to figure out college; it just wasn’t going to happen.”
That inexperienced first year soon became the musical director of Männerchor and he described the experience as challenging but rewarding.
“I have never music-directed anything before,” Perricone said. “We have all sort of been figuring out how this works, and I think even if we had the experience, we are still making a new group and that involves a new culture. But I’m really happy with how it’s gone.”
“Coming forward, I feel we will be able to accomplish a lot more than we thought we would,” Dugan said. “It has exceeded my expectations, and we are having fun.”
The current success leaves the founding members hopeful for Männerchor’s future, beginning with new members. Dugan will graduate in the spring but is excited to see how the group could blossom as it gains more experience.
“To a certain extent, the group is only as strong as the singers in it,” Dugan said. “I know that as this group continues and becomes an established group on campus, we are going to see freshmen coming in and experiencing it as something that is not new, but established. They won’t know that we are just a beginning group, which is how a lot of singers might see us now.”
Perricone has high hopes as well, and even has dreams of incorporating Männerchor’s sister group, Colla Voce.
“We have talked about maybe someday doing a combined concert,” Perricone said. “I think it would probably be just one semester, instead of either of us having separate concerts. The way I am envisioning it is that we would have individual songs, and then combined songs interspersed.”
Colla Broce may have started on a whim, but Männerchor is ready to be taken seriously.