NKU’s chamber choir sings for a different audience


Provided by Tyler Gabbard

NKU’s chamber choir performed in Niagara Falls and made other stops in Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal.

Cole Grecco, Asst. Arts & Life Editor

Hannah Shirkey recalled a moment she had when the Toronto choir that NKU’s chamber choir was collaborating with began singing a piece by world-renowned composer and conductor Eric Whitacre.

Shirkey, a senior music education major, walked to the back of the venue to have her own experience with the music, unswayed by the opinion of others.  

“Being a music major is so hard, and it was one of those moments where I realized, ‘This is why I do what I do and I’m so thankful I get to do this every day,’” said Shirkey.

NKU’s chamber choir went on a 10-day tour in Canada from May 9 to May 19 with stops in Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City, Montreal and Niagara Falls.

The chamber choir auditioned for the whole school year at the beginning of the 2015 fall semester.  They prepared music for their tour and raised funds for the trip that would cost each student about $3,000.

Initially the class planned to go to an international choral competition in Bulgaria.  However, with the crises around the world, instructor Randy Pennington decided they should stay a little closer to home.

Pennington organized concerts at every stop and collaborations with four different Canadian choirs that they would then perform with.  

“I’d do a master class with their groups and their conductor would come work with our students,” Pennington said.  “It was really a collaborative thing.”

Pennington said he stressed to the students that Canada wasn’t an extension of the United States, but  had its own culture.

“They realized things are similar, but different especially when we got to the Quebec area which is really more French than English,” Pennington said.

Arah Samuels, a sophomore music education major, grew up in Michigan, a 40-minute drive from the Canadian border.

“Canada doesn’t really feel abroad because it’s 40 minutes away but, going to some of the upper cities in Canada,  it felt like a completely different place,” Samuels said.“It’s just interesting to see a culture outside of American culture.”

The tour wasn’t just sightseeing and experiencing Canada. The class was there to sing and perform.

“Finding that balance between now it’s time to work and now it’s time to have fun was tough,” Shirkey said.

Samuels said that getting the proper amount of sleep was also a challenge.  

“We had wake up calls for us at 6:30 a.m. but there were some gigs we wouldn’t get back from until midnight,” Samuels said. “You are your instrument so you have to take care of your instrument but you’re also on vacation. It was a struggle.”

Despite the challenges the tour presented, Pennington said the choir performed well.  

“It was really well received,” Pennington said. “They had standing ovations at all the concerts. The students are great ambassadors for NKU.”

Pennington said the students thought that a museum or guided tour would be the memories the students kept, but Pennington knew they would remember the camaraderie, music and meeting new people.  This certainly held true for both Samuels and Shirkey.

“I met some of my best friends here because of the trip,” Samuels sad. “Seeing how hard each of us worked and how much we loved music and loved choir, it made our relationships grow.”