Somber voices flow from the practice rooms through the upstairs floor of the Wise Cultural Arts Center as the A Cappella Choir prepares for its upcoming concert. The Nov. 5 performance will be the first time the group will be accompanied by a professional orchestra.
“They (the A Cappella choir) are performing a major work, which is a really big deal for a junior college…and it’s going to have a orchestra with it,” said Nathan Russell, the director of Choral Activities. “TJC hasn’t done a major work by itself before.”
Russell not only oversees the classical style A Cappella choir, but this is also his first year to direct two other ensembles at TJC, including Harmony and Understanding, which focuses on a more modern approach to music, and The Chamber Singers, a smaller, more voice-centered group.
“All in all, we have an excellent balance of men and women,” Russell said. “We’ve got the most outstanding, aggressive men you’ve ever seen in your life.”
Russell believes that all of their hard work has prepared them to face the challenges of the competitive world of college choir.
“We can pick on out neighbor across town,” Russell said. “We have about double the choir that they (The University of Texas at Tyler) have, so for a four-year institution, we can take them down.”
Dr. Maria Guenette, the choir’s accompanist, began playing the piano for the choir this fall, in addition to teaching piano classes for TJC.
“I’m playing piano for the rehearsal, but Nathan wants to make it as authentic as possible so…we ‘re going to use a period instrument called the harpsichord instead of the piano, and I’m going to play the part for that,” Guenette said.
Her involvement and experience with the choir continues to grow as she is present every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the class meetings.
“The Way Nathan is directing the class is very structured. It just makes it easier with the learning process. The students are really attentive and they seem to want to earn and be there. It’s a good environment,” Gunette said.
Any current TJC student who is interested in joining the A Cappella choir can register for the class MUEN 1242 in the spring.
This is also the first year that TJC’s choir has had elected officers. Music major Peyton Neill, the president, agrees that they have all made vast improvements.
“We are actually more talented than last year, and our voices are blending very well,” Neill said.
In addition to being in Van High School Choir for four years, Neill is also a member of two of the three ensemble groups at TJC and participates with both in preparation for the fist concert of the season.
“It feels like we’re pushing our limits, and in a very good way, because I’ve never had the privilege of doing that before. It makes us want to do better,” Neill said. “It makes us think, ‘how good are we…? Do we want to get showed up by the orchestra?’ No, we want to be the best we can, so it’s gonna push us more.”
The concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 in the First Presbyterian Church at 230 W. Rusk St. in Tyler.