A new UTC Chamber Singers compact disc featuring arrangements by UTC music professor Roland Carter is raising money for the group’s upcoming international tour. In Bright Mansions Above: The Choral Music of Roland M. Carter, Volume I, by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chamber Singers, J. Kevin Ford, director, is available at the UTC Bookstore, www.CDBaby.com .
A special fundraising effort
Dr. Kevin Ford’s vision for choral music at the University includes an international student trip every four years, so that each generation of undergraduates will have that opportunity. Discussions are beginning for a trip in 2011.
Ford, UC Foundation Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities, was pleased with the success of a trip the Chamber Singers took to Austria in 2007. At that time, the cost per student was $2,400, but with fundraising and University support, the amount dropped to $600.
“Every honorarium we are given for a Chamber Singers performance is put with other gifts into an overseas tour account, which is only used for that purpose,” Ford said.
Considering the financial situation the country and the University is enduring, Ford said it was becoming clear that state support would continue to decline and it was time to look for alternate funding sources. It took two years from the time the idea of a compact disc was conceived to its completion.
“Roland donated all the music to the Choral Music library. That was a significant donation when you figure that each piece a chorus performs usually costs between $80 and $150 depending on length. We had taken two of Roland’s pieces to Austria and Roland came with us. He conduced his pieces on each concert and the audiences absolutely loved them. It appeared to me then that we had someone on faculty who had an important body of work and we should work with him to realize that work in a single collection, so that someone interested in his work could use this CD as a reference recording. Also, by focusing on Roland’s music the CD has a much wider audience,” Ford said.
Benefits of an international music experience
Most of the students who comprise the UTC Chamber Singers have never left the country. An international tour gives them a much broader perspective of the world, Ford said. As music students, much of the music the students perform now and will perform throughout their professional lives was written for specific locations and in many cases, specific buildings, many of which are still in existence.
“Each singer in a chorus produces a sound much like the individual string on the guitar. The resonating chamber is the room or concert hall and that is where all 30 or so voices blend together and become the sound of the chorus,” Ford explained.
Each major composition that is still in the cannon was written with a specific acoustic in mind, Ford said. The composer knew how much echo was in the room and wrote accordingly.
“Anton Bruckner’s ‘Locus iste’ has this very long pause toward the end of the piece. To do it in Roland Hayes [on the UTC campus] is a little silly. Everyone just waits in silence. However, to do it in the church for which it was intended reveals the reason for the long pause. The church has about a six to seven second echo. He was letting that die out before the piece could conclude. In Austria, we were able to perform in the church that hosted Bruckner and in the church in which Mozart and Michael Haydn worked and wrote many of their masterworks,” Ford said.
Finally, Ford said the tours advance the reputation of the University to a new audience.
Recording the music
The process of recording the compact disc began with Ford writing grants and requesting funds for the purchase of recording equipment and an editing system. He learned the process and the software editing. Creative recording sessions began in spring 2008.
“We would put up crude recording curtains on the doors of Cadek recital hall to dampen the outside noise and ask that people be very quiet in the halls,” Ford said. “During hot months we had to have the air conditioning turned off to the recital hall since it made a great deal of noise. We rehearsed and recorded during class time for all but two days. On one day, we came back at night to record the pieces we had taken to Austria. This way the recent graduates who sang those pieces got to come back and be part of the project. At the end of the term we also put in an extra Saturday to record what was left from our schedule. We started that day out at Roland Hayes Concert Hall in the FAC but soon discovered that a new lighting system put in emitted a loud hum, which could not be silenced. We all got in cars and went to the Signal Mountain Arts Community Center and finished the recording there in their auditorium.”
In summer 2008, Ford worked on the recordings and decided some songs needed to be re-recorded. The project was completed in a recording session in Cadek. Ford finished editing and took the files to an engineer, who finalized the recording. At its conclusion, 62 student singers participated in the project and learned about the recording process.
“I want to say how appreciative I am of the University for the support for this project, to Roland for allowing me to do it and for working so hard on the project himself and to the UTC students for all the hours practicing and recording,” Ford said. “I’m excited to think that the proceeds for this work will send our students to parts of the world that they have never seen, will deepen their knowledge and understanding of their art, and will allow them to experience things that will last a lifetime.”