The soaring voices of 77 singers filled Rosse Hall on Saturday night. Conducted by Professor of Music Benjamin Locke, known to those around campus as “Doc Locke,” and accompanied by Corey Strinka, the Kenyon College Chamber Singers and Kenyon Community Choir performed classical and folk music to an enthusiastic audience.
The audience cheered as the Community Choir, a mix of students, professors and community members, filed in. In their first song, “Sing Aloud” by Alan Hovhaness, the sopranos and altos layered their voices with those of the tenors and basses.
The entire choir opened with a particularly moving performance of “Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen” by Johannes Brahms. The voices of the sopranos soared above the bass line and flirted with those of the tenors, occasionally harmonizing, occasionally singing in unison.
“Ogden Gnashed” by Robert D. Herrema received a round of applause after every line, especially due to the happy choreography. During musical interludes, the choir alternated between swaying as a group and bouncing in place, imitating the movements of cows, rhinoceroses and rabbits. The coordinated movement exaggerated the lighthearted inventiveness and comic effect of the song.
The Community Choir ended on a somber but beautiful note. The audience could feel the movement of the song and story of “Dirait-on” by Morten Lauridsen as the music swelled and rushed. The performance was a beautiful demonstration of the power that results when multiple voices — old and young, experienced and inexperienced — come together to create something breathtaking. In a message to the Collegian, Community Choir member Kayly Gagel ’25 said, “the most important thing was that we were singing together and bringing music to the audience.”
The Chamber Singers is only made up of 47 students, but their voices filled the auditorium with the same gusto as those of the Community Choir. “This was the first time I’ve ever performed with the Chamber Singers, and being part of such a large group onstage is a feeling like no other. You’re creating a sea of many voices, which means everyone is equally vital,” said Soren Roeser ’26 in a message to the Collegian.
They began with “All Angels” by George Arthur. Megan Dellenbaugh ’26, a member of the Chamber Singers, reflected on its haunting variation: “Its text, dynamics and close harmonies reflect the cycle of war and peace: the choir goes from fortissimo to pianissimo (extremely loud to extremely quiet) within a few words throughout the verses. Doc Locke picked it to be the first piece on our program because he wanted to open the concert with a hope for peace.”
“Signposts” by Eskil Hemberg was one of the most memorable pieces. According to a note in the program from Locke, this song was inspired by a book that narrated Dag Hammarskjöld’s work for world peace before his death in a plane crash. The tenors and basses alternated with the sopranos and altos to create the sound of wind blowing. The song transported the audience to the terrors of a plane’s last flight as the voices swelled and faded.
Their music was not limited to a Christian or Biblical theme. The song titled “In beauty may I walk” is based on a Navajo prayer, Second Day of the Night, translated by Washington Matthews and put to music by Jonathan Dove. The song reflects the changing environment around someone as they walk and to be a metaphor for the journey of life. The voices of the sopranos and altos wove through the firm hold of the voices of the tenors and basses like a tapestry.
The Chamber Singers finished with an upbeat “Daniel, Daniel, Servant of the Lord” by Undine Moore to a round of hearty applause. In a message to the Collegian, Cooper Bertschi ’26 shared that “at this concert, I must say my favorite moment was the final note of “Daniel Daniel” by Undine Moore. I truly felt that the whole choir was connected by our conviction, as evidenced by the tone and immense dynamics of the song’s conclusion.”
Bertschi continued, writing that “The collaboration with the Community Choir is always a joy, though we have very limited time before the concert to practice as a whole group! I love hearing the multitude of voices singing out.” This beautiful collaboration became evident when the Community Choir joined the Chamber Singers onstage. Their first joint song was “The Seal Lullaby” by Eric Whitacre. Roeser said, “all the songs from our set are really special, but I remember that Eric Whitacre’s ‘Seal Lullaby’ literally brought a tear to my eye the first time all the Chamber Singers practiced its opening during rehearsal. The dynamics are meant to resemble rising and falling ocean waves, and being part of the resulting sound really moved me.”
Together, the Chamber Singers and the Community Choir ended the evening with “Dubula, Mfanandini (Shoot, Young Man!),” a Xhosa folksong transcribed by Locke. He told the story of watching it be performed in South Africa. As part of the choreography, the singers pretended to shoot at a bird. After the performance, he asked them why, as part of the dance, they pretended to shoot at the ground, when it would be more realistic to mime shooting at the sky. They explained that they would get arrested for miming shooting at the sky during Apartheid, and the practice of shooting downward stuck. When Chamber Singers and the Community Choir performed the song, they included the traditional choreography. Even Locke joined the fun, leaving the conductor’s stand to dance alongside his singers.
Chamber Singer Rebecca Keller ’26 highlighted Locke’s commitment to the choirs. “Being a part of Chamber Singers is a profoundly rewarding experience [that] I owe entirely to Doc. I find the commitment to be a lot sometimes, but I would do it a thousand times over for him. He is incredibly passionate and committed to the group and to the music, and he ignites that same passion in his students. The cultivation of his hard work comes alive at the concert, and those in the audience can feel it.”
Joseph Ferrari ’24, a member of the Chamber Singers, echoed this. “When you’re up there on stage following Doc’s directions, all of the stresses of college life are wiped away and you are completely immersed in the music,’’ he said. “I feel blessed to have him as a conductor and musical mentor.”Kate Faxon ’26, another member of the Chamber Singers shared in a message to the Collegian, “Doc talked before the concert to the choirs about how music has the power to move people and connect with them in a profound way, and it’s not about giving a perfect performance, it’s about forging that connection.” Judging by the enthusiastic applause, shouts of “encore” and beaming audience faces at the end of the concert, their performance was a success. Bravi to Chamber Singers and Community Choir for creating an unforgettable experience!