While the A Capella choir is most well-known for its concerts showcasing different choral pieces, once a year we have the opportunity to let our hair down to have a fun, informal, entertaining concert. This annual fundraiser is called ROCK-A-PELLA, and it is one of our biggest. ROCK-A-PELLA is a variety show where students have the opportunity to showcase their other talents.
This is ROCK-A-PELLA’s seventh year, and every year the choir works harder to bring in entertaining acts and a good audience. Last year we had piano solos, skits, musical theatre selections, acoustic guitar performances, a barber shop quartet and even a marriage proposal.
I performed in ROCK-A-PELLA my freshman year. It is a different kind of audience because some of the students do not attend many concerts during the academic year. I performed a piano solo last year. It was different for me because I hadn’t performed publically on the piano since the end-of-the-year recital after my sophomore year of high school.
The acts that were chosen to perform were topnotch this year. The show started off with the Central College Kertbellen Choir with an arrangement of the song “Clocks” by Coldplay. The bells were stationed around Dowstra so it really enveloped the audience in sound. The show also featured selections in musical theatre, country-western and an acoustic mash-up, as well as performances from Chamber Singers and the A Capella Choir. We sang two of our Brazilian pieces in honor of our tour. which is days away, and a gospel piece that has been a hit with our audiences since we added it to our repertoire.
Because this year is an international tour we held auditions judged by faculty members to ensure that we got some quality talent. There were three judges who decided which acts would be featured in the show. Professor Babcock says many times during the year that people vote with their feet and their pocket books. There is a money box for each act, and at the end of the show whoever has the most money in their box is deemed the winner of ROCK-A-PELLA.
Dowstra Auditorium was packed at this year’s performance and the choir members have heard nothing but good comments from Central students who attended the show. This year’s winner was sophomore Lexie Waymire who sang a rendition “Watch What Happens” from the Broadway musical The Newsies.
Throughout Printmaking, we have learned a lot of different techniques. The latest thing we have learned was using soft ground. Before, when I was working on the “Mechanical Colony” project, we used hard ground–the tar-like substance we would paint on before scraping it off and immersing it in the acid bath. With soft ground, however, you can’t scratch it off the same way. Soft ground doesn’t completely dry, so you can press textures onto it and make some cool patterns.
For this project, our assignment was to choose a sound and represent it through texture. The sound I choose to represent was the Saxophone sound. I used roped and made a snake-like pattern along one side of my copper to portray the soft flowing sound the saxophone can make, as well as shows the shape of the sax. On the other side, I found a bunch of threads that were all tangled together and had then outline the border. This portrayed the quick unexpected sounds the saxophone makes in both jazz and blues music.
Mr. Babcock always tells us in choir that performances make us better, give us something to work for and will help us keep improving for our Brazil tour. The A Capella Choir was supposed to perform on March 22 in Stuart, Iowa, but that concert was cancelled for various reasons. So three weeks ago Professor Babcock contacted the pastor of First Lutheran Church in Newton and asked if we could sing. First Lutheran Church had not had a collegiate choir perform there in almost seven years, and they were thrilled to have us.
The congregation absolutely loved the concert. Pastor Bey of First Lutheran Church says he has received nothing but good comments about the concert. “They were very excited to host the choir. They were good people who made good music, and we would love to have them come back.”
The church was full of people. We perform better as a group when there is a big audience who absolutely loves to hear good music. There are a good number of Central College alumni in Newton.
“We have the most success in audience building when alumni are present, and they receive value from the institution after graduation,” Mr. Babcock says.
Pastor Bey and his wife are both past members of the A Capella Choir and Chamber Singers. Pastor Bey says that he has not heard the choir sing in almost 13 years and the sound that flowed through the building was amazing. It has been a tradition in the A Capella Choir for years that we end our concerts with our benediction entitled “The Lord Bless You.”
“Hearing the choir sing the benediction was the highlight of the concert for my wife and I. It was a moment of connection,” Pastor Bey says. “We are so glad that we live close to the choir and can hear them sing more often.”
When looking back on his time in the A Capella Choir, Pastor Bey reflects on an international tour to Romania—the cathedrals and singing spaces that they sang in while they were there. “We sang the Lord’s Prayer in Romanian and audience members after the concert told us that we sounded like native Romanians. That was a huge compliment for us.”
Newton is the hometown of director Mark Babcock and choir member Chloe Gearheart. “It’s always a joy to perform in Newton,” Gearhart says. “It’s especially cool for me now because the people who helped shape me as a musician get the opportunity to see how far I’ve come. I’m not just some crazy high school soprano with an outrageously loud voice and a decent ear. I’m a young woman now who has found some time to dedicate to an ensemble with a shared artistic vision. And I wouldn’t be where I am if those people hadn’t instilled the importance of fine arts in my life.”
Gearhart continues: “I can’t stress how important it is for a choir like ours to hold concerts in small towns like Newton. We lost Maytag Corporation some years ago, which affected both our economy and our community. In the time since, we’ve lost a lot of people, and unfortunately the music programs at our schools have suffered from it…In my opinion, choral arts are among the most accessible forms of art. When a suffering community begins to lose the arts, it loses that communal respite. People need music in their lives.”
For Mr. Babcock, who does not make it back to Newton that often, the concert was very rewarding. “All the people I knew were all in the same place, and I hadn’t seen them in a long time.”
Throughout Printmaking, we have learned a lot of different techniques. The latest thing was using soft ground. Before, when I was working on the mechanical project, we used hard ground (it was the tar-like substance we would paint on before scraping off and immersing in the acid bath). With soft ground, however, you can’t scratch it off the same. Soft ground doesn’t completely dry, so you can press textures onto it and make some cool patterns.
For this project, our assignment was to choose a sound and represent it through texture. The sound I choose to represent was the sound of a saxophone. I used ropes and made a snake-like pattern along one side of my copper, to portray the soft flowing sound the saxophone can make, as well as show the shape of the sax. On the other side, I found a bunch of threads that were all tangled together, and then outlined the border. This portrayed the quick unexpected sounds the saxophone makes in both jazz and blues music.
Being in a choral ensemble is a very collaborative experience. We have to be able to work together as a team to create the art that we do, and on several occasions we extend an invitation to other ensembles to collaborate with us. This month, we extended an invitation to Pella Christian High School to do a joint concert with the A Cappella Choir on February 11.
Professor Mark Babcock feels that collaborative concerts are important. “College students should inspire future choral generations to keep singing and help them raise their artistic vision and aspire to be better,” he says.
This performance was not the first of its kind. During our spring tour, we invited the Fort Dodge High School choir to sing a piece with us, and we were able to do clinics with Oskaloosa and Ottumwa High School during out last fall tour. The A Capella Choir also performs a piece with the high school students who come to Central to participate in SingFest.
It seems like only yesterday that I was still in high school and the idea of singing in a collegiate choir was just a dream. When we do workshops and collaborative concerts with high school students, it is hard to believe that I was once in their shoes. In a sense, I would say that the high school students are lucky. Not every high school gets an opportunity like this to work with a collegiate ensemble.
Central sophomore Molly Ward says that the joint concert made her feel like she was doing a good deed for the community. “It made me realize how far I’ve come since I have been at college.”
The students of Pella Christian had many positive things to say about the collaborative concert, too:
- “I enjoyed singing with Central. It was an experience I have never had before. I got into the music more because I felt more comfortable. They really get into it and sound amazing.” – Kara Jansen
- “I had a great time singing with the Central College choir. Combining to make an even better choir was really fun. It was a great experience that I would love to do again.” -Adam Howerzyl
- “I really liked this experience. It was so amazing to sing with such a great choir and be able to sing out and not feel out of place. It’s also always nice to hear music from multiple directors’ perspectives. I would do it again in a heartbeat.” – Spencer Fynaardt
Mr. Tim Van Voorst, director of the Pella Christian Concert Choir, also had good things to say about the concert.
“Singing with more mature singers allows the students to hear and become a part of the next level of choral singing. This experience has helped my students feel more comfortable expressing themselves physically while singing and engaging their whole being while performing. I hope this experience will cause my students to more seriously consider singing in choir in college and beyond.”