This Tuesday, the Southern Tier Singers’ Collective will make its campus debut with a performance at the Binghamton University Art Museum.
The concert, “Returning to Love: An Evening of Italian Renaissance Madrigals,” will feature Renaissance madrigals from composers Gesualdo, Marenzio, Monteverdi, Vecchi and Wert. According to William Culverhouse, director of choral activities and assistant professor of music at BU, the selections are meant to illustrate the stages of romantic love.
“The concert will follow a narrative arc from the infatuation of first love through the anguish of conflict to the renewal of loving again,” Culverhouse said.
“Returning to Love” will be the group’s first performance since their October debut at Saint Patrick’s Church on Leroy Street. Meant to coincide with All Saints’ Day, the performance features a selection of Renaissance music sung by 18 members of the Collective. They will return to the church on Feb. 9 for a program centered around the themes of repentance and redemption, which will be sung by 33 members.
The BU show will feature Culverhouse alongside four of the group’s founding members: Elizabeth Chilton, dean of Harpur College; Paul Schleuse, director of undergraduate studies in music; Andrew Walkling, dean’s associate professor of early modern studies and Christina Taylor, a Binghamton community member. Each of them has prior experience and special skill in Renaissance music.
The Southern Tier Singers’ Collective includes about 40 members in total, many of them recent BU graduates, professors or local choir directors. After advertising via Facebook, the group also recruited singers from Ithaca, Oneonta and Pennsylvania. Culverhouse said the project largely came together through networks he had already established with singers in the area.
“When I took the job here at BU, one of the first things I did was get in touch with all the local high school choir directors and start building relationships with them,” Culverhouse said.
With its large roster, the collective was designed to allow groupings of smaller ensembles for different events. The group forgoes weekly practices and instead operates on a schedule more similar to an orchestra’s, allowing the singers greater schedule flexibility and independence.
“Because people are busy, they’re unable to do any of the local choirs that have weekly rehearsals,” Culverhouse said. “Because they’re highly skilled, though, they can do the cluster rehearsal model that we have here.”
The five singers who will be performing “Returning to Love” have been rehearsing together since last school year. All five have previous experience with the selected music, but this will be their first time performing it together. According to Culverhouse, the bulk of their preparation involved learning their parts independently, but the pieces still required a lot of group practice.
“The same way a string quartet has to work out all the details of a performance together, an a cappella group has to work out all the details of a performance together,” he said.
Many of the pieces chosen for the BU performance are musically innovative for their time, those by Gesualdo being especially complex but rewarding, according to Culverhouse.
“It’s very emotionally intense and very difficult, but it’s very specific in the way it paints human emotion with sound,” he said. “Those pieces are particularly beautiful.”
“Returning to Love: An Evening of Italian Renaissance Madrigals” will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 29 at the BU Art Museum. “O Vos Omnes: Music of Repentance and Redemption” will take place 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at Saint Patrick’s Church. Both shows will run about an hour long and are free and open to the public.