On Halloween this year, while some people were off listening to some hard hitting EDM at Escape All Hallows’ Eve, a small audience made their way to the Westerbeck Recital Hall to get a taste of a very different kind of music. Piano, oboe, and the melody of dozens of voices created an incredible sound when the Pasadena City College choir groups performed their Fall Choral Recital.
The Fall Choral Recital brought three different choir groups together to perform pieces from a wide variety of composers. From Johannes Brahms and Aaron Copland to Guiseppe Pitoni and PCC’s own Dr. Steven Gates, everyone’s pieces were brought to life beautifully by the three choral groups.
A big part of the success of the night’s performance was the direction of Donald Brinegar, the director of choral studies, who acted as the conductor for the night. Brinegar has been with Pasadena City College for 36 years and has sung with choral groups all around the world including the Robert Shaw Chorale and the Roger Wagner Chorale.
Brinegar said composing a recital is very different from composing a full concert. It’s less formal than a full concert, which meant that they were able to feature multiple choral groups singing a wide variety of compositions.
“It’s about how the music is set and how it flows,” said Brinegar, “You’re kind of writing a large symphony, you want something that’s majestic, then you want something slow, then you want something dance-like, and then something energized, and then something soft and slow again. You try to let the concert have an ebb and flow to it.”
Each grouping of compositions was sung by a different set of choral groups: the Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, Madrigal, and a couple different combinations of those three all performed. The Combined Choir included everyone and sang the last two pieces of the show.
“Concert Choir is open to anyone on campus just anyone who wants to come and sing there’s no audition. There’s a light audition for Chamber Singers we try to keep that as a bit smaller group, and Madrigals is a more highly auditioned group,” said Brinegar.
Ending the night was a piece called “Steal Away” composed by Dr. Steven Gates, a professor of music theory.
According to Gates, the lyrics come from an old spiritual by the same name that was written by enslaved people that spoke about going home one day, where home represents both the afterlife and escaping to the north to their freedom.
The lyrics all come from the spiritual, but Gates, ““wrote entirely new music for this spiritual, which has a melody that goes with it, the slaves sang a melody to these words…”
Of course, none of this would have come to be if not for the performers who brought all of these pieces to life with their combined voices. Christian Pieratt, a member of the Madrigals who has been in the choir program for three years, said that between a group of strong singers and great leadership from Brinegar ensured that the recital was a success.
“I think we did justice to his piece,” Pieratt said about their performance of “Steal Away.” “It’s a really amazing piece.”
This was a one-time event, but recordings were made of the concert and they are available upon request from Professor Brinegar at his office located at CA 134B.
The next time the choir will perform will be their winter concert on December 6 where they will combine with the orchestra in Sexson Auditorium.