The Sounds of Meadville

Allegheny choirs collaborate with community for fall concert

The Allegheny Choirs will host the annual fall semester concert on Saturday, Dec. 5 in Shafer Auditorium at 3:15 p.m.

The concert will showcase all of the Allegheny choral groups including the College Chorus, Chamber Choir, Women’s Ensemble, Men’s Ensemble and College Choir.

James Niblock, ’97, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities leads these ensembles.

James and his wife Carol Niblock, ’02, instructor of voice, along with several other faculty members dedicated to voice, represent the most recent link in a long chain of choral leaders.

Choir at Allegheny College is a long-standing tradition dating back to the 1920s with glee clubs and the formation of the Allegheny Singers in 1930. The Allegheny Singers, now known as the College Choir have been performing for the college and Meadville audiences ever since.

James mentioned that during the formative years from the 1930s to the 1990s the choirs toured extensively and this form of musical outreach is something he would like to bring back.

Currently 135 performers make up the five major vocal ensembles according to James. These ensembles are the College Choir, College Chorus, Chamber Choir, Women’s Ensemble and Men’s Ensemble.

James remarked that each group represents and aims to provide a unique challenge and experience at that particular level.

“The amount of repertoire is massive,” said James. “It spans from gregorian chant to contemporary music by living composers.”

The College Choir is the epicenter of the vocal tradition at Allegheny, generally comprising 35 to 45 members and presenting the standard choral experience. The College Chorus is the most diverse group identified by James, with 75 members that encompass students and community members alike.

“The College Chorus provides an opportunity for people to get their feet wet,” said James. “I’d love to hear from more people interested in singing.”

The Chamber Choir is a smaller, select group of 15 to 20 members that sing mostly unaccompanied music. James said that for this group expectations are high and there is added accountability due to the group size.

The Men’s and Women’s Ensembles are particularly unique, pooling from two different sets of repertoire and historical traditions. James said that these two groups provide a lot of flexibility and a welcome change of pace from the standard literature presented in the mixed gender choirs.

Louis Fehér-Peiker, ’17, has been a member of the Men’s Ensemble, College Choir and Chamber Choir. Fehér-Peiker enjoys the Men’s Ensemble for the camaraderie felt between the members, but he also enjoys the Chamber Choir for the unique challenge.

“I joined the AC Choirs because I found music to be my creative outlet,” said Fehér-Peiker. “After I joined, I discovered the rich community of friends and colleagues who enjoy making music with their mouths.”

Outside of the ensemble environment, Carol oversees individual lessons for the students. Carol mentioned that she sees many students each year with no formal training but have an interest in getting to know their voice better.

“The course of study has to be tailored very closely to each student’s needs,” said Carol. “This includes not only picking appropriate music, but addressing vocal problems, scheduling and accommodating a diverse student body.”

There are opportunities available at every experience level from College Chorus and Chamber Choir for experienced singers to Intro Voice class for the inexperienced, which is offered for one credit each semester free of charge.

“Everyone is busy and doing their own thing, but there are a lot of people that would enjoy giving this a try,” said James.

James encourages all to meet with him if they have any interest or questions about the vocal groups.