By Jeffrey Blackwell/Harvard Memorial Church Communications
May Wang ’20 held out her hand and from Harvard University Choirmaster Edward Elwyn Jones accepted a small envelope and a blue tie embroidered with the crest of the Harvard Memorial Church.
With a quick bit of ceremony and a handshake, Wang recently became a member of a piece of Harvard tradition spanning 180 years — the Harvard University Choir, one of the oldest and most prestigious choruses on campus.
“My sister was in the University Choir and loved it,” Wang said. “She and her friends worked really, really hard to convince me to audition. And so far, I love it too.”
After more than two weeks of auditions and rehearsals, the cast of dynamic voices for the 2016-2017 University Choir is set. More than 40 students from a melting pot of cultural and musical backgrounds competed to fill 18 vacant seats on one of Harvard’s premier musical groups.
Jones, Gund University Organist and Choirmaster, said this year’s applicants were a very talented group of singers with a wide range of experience and musical interests. Whittling down such a pool of talent was no easy task.
“We have open auditions at the beginning of the school year and we see a range of experience, from virtually no singing experience all the way to people who sang regularly in church and school choirs and have very high musical skills,” Jones said. “I am confident we have a wonderful choir that will continue this long and flourishing tradition.”
The University Choir is the primary musical voice for Harvard Memorial Church. The group provides the musical backdrop to Sunday Services (at the Knafel Center during Fall Term due to the renovation of the Memorial Church). The Choral Fellows, an ensemble of sixteen singers who form the backbone of the main choir, provide music every weekday at Morning Prayers (located at Holden Chapel during the renovation); auditions for the Choral Fellows are held in the spring.
The full choir also performs a series of concerts throughout the school year. The first concert, Stephen Paulus’s church opera The Three Hermits, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23 in First Church, Cambridge.
The Fall Concert, on 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20 in Sanders Theatre, features the choir, the Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra, and a roster of internationally acclaimed soloists. The performance of Handel’s pastoral ode L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato will be directed by guest conductor Nicholas McGegan, Harvard’s Christoph Wolff Distinguished Visiting Scholar. The Annual Christmas Carol Services are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 and 13, in St. Paul Church, Harvard Square.
May said she is looking forward to the season.
“Generally I found that music people are my favorite,” she said. “There is just something about music that connects people and makes it easy to become friends and I’m looking for a good community and support group.”