Mesa Community College choir set to take stage

Rebecca Stapley
Mesa Legend

MCC choir directors
(Photos: Rebecca Stapley / Mesa Legend)

MCC music department presented its first choral concert of the Spring 2017 semester on Feb. 27 and March 2 at the MCC Performing Arts Center.  The two choirs being featured in this presentation are MCC’s own Concert Choir and Evening Choir directed by Dr. Craig Peterson, an experienced choral conductor at MCC, and assistant director Brook Larson.

These directors are excited to showcase the talent of their choirs. Dr. Peterson says, “I’m always excited to bring my two choirs together, concert choir and my evening choir. I am an educator and I like showing them that you can sing all the rest of your life.” Both Dr. Peterson and Larson have been involved in music from early childhood.

Dr. Peterson has been conducting for about 34 years, and both have been teaching for a long while. Larson initially started out as a music major, but he describes how in his junior year of college, everything changed.

“I had a choir director that brought out a passion for choral music that I didn’t even know existed inside of me,” he says. “Getting the chords to lock in tune, that was the flame, the spark.” There’s a passion and love for music students gain when they really apply themselves to the art, and these are the things MCC’s choral directors try to demonstrate whenever possible.

Dr. Peterson affirms, “I would say that I have been fortunate to have this job. There have been many, many very positive things that have happened here. I indeed enjoy working with the choirs.” He recently became chair of the music department. This is a position that when he first started working at MCC he could have never expected to be in.  He was surprised when the former chair asked if he would run but since he has come to really enjoy being centrally involved in not only choral interests but in everything the department has to offer, including band and orchestra.

One of the most difficult things about putting a concert together at the start of the semester is identifying the level of experience and the general mix and blend of voices of the choir without previous collaboration. Whereas in a high school choir where the number of voices are often predetermined and the choral program is built through a long process, community college choirs tend to change drastically from semester to semester and the amount of time allotted to learn and perfect music is remarkably shortened.

Choir StageAdditionally, the expectations are much higher. Larson describes, “Another component of that is not only the changeover of students but we don’t know if we’re going to have five tenors or twelve tenors. So literally, after a couple of rehearsals, we’re still finalizing music in a program that we’re going to sing five weeks later.”

Every semester a new and diverse dynamic is created, with its own unique challenges. Blend is arguably the single most important construct in a choir.  The repertoire that the directors choose must match the available voices in the choir just as much as the skillset of the choir must match the difficulty of the music.

It’s neither a simple nor easy task. While some pieces work with a variety of vocal blends, directors keep a stack of potential compositions they can’t utilize unless it matches the mix. Dr. Peterson explained, “We never can really plan too far in the future with programs because we don’t always know until we see the whites of their eyes. And even to balance the sections, you can have ten altos and ten sopranos but seven of the sopranos are taking voice lessons and so they sing stronger than the ten altos.

So even sometimes numbers fool you until you’re in a rehearsal for a little while.”
An important aspect of choral concerts is variety. Dr. Peterson expresses, “When I was a younger conductor, there was an older conductor that told me that ‘Planning a concert should be a little like planning a meal.’ You’re not going to have a whole plate of broccoli. You’re going to have a little broccoli, you’re going to have a piece of meat, you’re going to have some potatoes, you might have a salad….In other words, just variety in the meal. I think a concert should be somewhat the same.”

The theme for this concert is sacred music, but the directors worked tediously to create variety in their repertoire, as it is a principle they both feel strongly about when programming a concert. Larson claims, “There’s going to be something for everybody. Within the umbrella of sacred music, there’s a variety of slow and fast, accompanied and acapella, and I think there’s a good variety that’s going to appeal to most of the audience.”

Larson explains that there are two things he prides himself on. The first is the ability to keep his choir and his audience happy by choosing good music. The other is that the singers maintain “a decent balance between having fun in rehearsal and still putting out a decent music product.” He continued, “If my singers are enjoying it, my audience sees that, and that’s a significant part for the singers as well as the audience.”

Dr. Peterson describes his enthusiasm for the up concert by saying, “I think there’s something to be said about working together and coming together so I’m excited about that. I’m excited that we’re going to be showing off our new choir director. And I’m always excited to make music…but the music has to say something and the music has to speak to people.” While it is sometimes difficult to produce an outstanding performance, directors Dr. Peterson and Brook Larson are positive this next concert is going to be a good one.

 Ticket prices range from $6.00-$8.00.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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