Utica on the Map

Utica on the Map
Smack in the Center

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Fine Arts Dept.: The World Music Chorus

Last Saturday morning I went to a rehearsal of an international chorus at the Unitarian Church. Several members of the group are friends of mine and they had encouraged me to come and listen or sing. I can't sing, or even read music, but I can listen.

The sun was streaming through the many windows as the chorus slowly went over Abun d'bashmayo, or The Lord's prayer in Aramaic. As their leader, Chris Gaca, explains below, their objective is not the perfect "trills" of a church choir, but a more natural, honest singing, as well as a means of introducing people to international music.

Here is Chris Gaca's description of the group's beginnings:

 "I started this group in August of 2009.  Having just come back from a week long workshop in world music and dance with the "Vanaver Caravan" at Omega Institute, I decided to test the waters of Utica, NY for interest in this topic.  I advertised a World Music Workshop which was held for no charge at the UUU church and there were 15 people that showed up for it.  At the end of the workshop, most of the people who attended wanted to continue, so I set our rehearsals for 2 x each month and got approval from the church to use their facilities to practice.  We have been singing together as The World Music Chorus ever since.

Our repertoire at present includes about 20 different songs from countries all over the world including China, Puerto Rico, Iran, Bulgaria, Nigeria, and many more. Much of the music we do comes from world music I have collected over a lifetime  but we have also had some workshops to learn music from many other sources.

The music I pick is based on folk tradition - again not western re-arrangement.  We are unafraid of trying to pronounce lyrics that have sounds and vocal expressions not used in the English language.  There are many examples out there of groups who have taken musical pieces from other countries and re-arranged them for choir by swapping out the original melodies for something more western sounding and dropping the original language for English. This is not us.  Choirs can also become somewhat elitist.  There is no audition to join my group and abilities cover a wide range.  We sometimes learn from music, but also learn aurally, so there is no requirement for specific musical skills.  We are just a group of adults who enjoy tapping into the sound production possibilities of our bodies and giving homage to cultures other than our own by exploring their vocal expressions.
 I have started my own blog at:  http://chrisgaca.wordpress.com/category/world-music-chorus-repertoire/

This site has connections to YouTube videos of native singers performing the songs we are trying to learn and a link to download lyrics. If people want to know the kind of songs we are working on, they can go to the website.

We have performed at the UU church several times now as part of their services and also at St. Luke's Nursing Home where we sang our full repertoire for the residents there."

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