Chorus at RC continues to embrace community after more than 50 years

By Lily Cochenour
Activities Editor

In existence for more than 50 years, the A Cappella Chorus continues to undergo changes by incorporating new singers, fresh music and unique travel destinations, but one aspect that stays the same is the group’s ability to connect with the community and with God through music.

“The chorus continues to evolve as it has throughout its history,” said Dr. Joe Bentley, professor of music and chorus director. “Lately, we’re finding that not as many students have as much time to sing as students used to have. So, our repertoire is evolving to fit a smaller group and to emphasize its strengths.”

Bentley said he tries to choose music that is interesting to him, to his singers and to the audience. Two of the songs the group is singing this year are “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder and “For Good” from the musical “Wicked!”

“As a group, we have a wide variety of music we enjoy and appreciate,” Bentley said. “There is a whole world of music to choose from and I never want to do anything that isn’t appealing to me, our singers and our audiences. As a result, I try to program a wide variety of things.”

One of the most awe-inspiring performances for the chorus this year was when it performed “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” featuring Frank Pitts, adjunct instructor of music, in chapel in December. The audience was amazed when he started singing his deep bass part.

In the 33 years that Bentley has directed the chorus, hundreds of students have come through, and they have formed an alumni chorus so they can continue to be part of the chorus family. The alumni chorus have performed on occasion with the current chorus, who also say they love how everyone is so close.

“We are a tight-knit family that all shares the same passions of singing and giving glory to God in all that we do,” sophomore education major Bella Galli said.

Another unique aspect of the chorus that isn’t present at other schools is the ability to openly worship God through song. “I love that we all use chorus as a creative outlet to express ourselves. We get to serve others by utilizing each of our unique talents and empower each other to do the best we can to give God glory and praise.”

Sophomore theatre major and chorus member Angela Nachtman agrees. “I wanted to spend time with some of the people who I am very close to, and I also wanted a chance to continue to grow my voice and challenge myself.”

Every year, the chorus take a weeks-long tour to destinations in the United States.  This year they will be on tour in southeast Michigan and Ohio. These trips often allow for the students to grow closer.

“I think by far the most exciting thing that I’ve had the opportunity to do in chorus so far was definitely chorus tour,” sophomore theater major Odera Office said. “Being able to go all over Michigan and sing with people that I consider my friends was just a great experience.”

Chorus members practice together three times per week and deliver two or three concerts a year on campus as well as some collaborative concerts with other groups in the community.  

“Chorus is a welcoming group of singers who would love to have more of their fellow students come and sing with them!” Bentley said. “We hold auditions at the beginning and end of every semester, and we are always looking for more students who love to sing. Anyone who sang in a choir in high school should consider coming to sing with us. I’d love to talk more about that with anyone who is interested.”