When in doubt, sing it out with the UA Faculty/Staff Choir
Faculty, staff and graduate students overwhelmed with work and in need of a break or an outlet can turn to the University of Arizona Faculty/Staff Choir.
UA’s Faculty and Staff Choir is a volunteer organization that started in 1990 where faculty, staff, graduate students and retired affiliates can sing and perform as one group.
“It’s just an outlet for singing on campus for people like professors and faculty, but now graduate students, who don't otherwise have a singing outlet,” said Paul Sheppard, associate professor of dendrochronology and a bass in the choir. “This is a nice niche for people like us. We don't really have other opportunities to sing.”
The choir also provides an opportunity for people to meet others from different departments other than their own.
“I’ll run into faculty [and] staff choir members at campus networking events or meetings on campus,” said Amy Smith, a soprano and the director of foundation relations for the UA Foundation. “It is fun to see a friendly face, somebody outside of your office or department that’s just strictly work-related.”
The choir is split into four parts: two for women and two for men. From highest notes to lowest, it goes soprano, alto, tenor and bass. The amount of people in the choir varies by semester, but there are usually about 30 to 40 people. According to their website, this semester the choir is made up of 42 members, including 12 sopranos, 16 altos, 6 tenors and 8 basses. No experience is required and there are no auditions to join.
Each semester the group learns a new set of music to perform at their end-of-semester concerts, the Fall Gala Concert and the Spring Gala Concert. Anyone can go and experience the choir. In addition to the concerts, they also perform at other UA events, such as the Tucson Festival of Books and UA sports games.
“All semester we are working towards [Fall Gala], and then immediately after the Christmas concert, at the end of fall semester, we basically dump all that music and start a new set of music to get ready for the spring concert,” said Buck Janes, a tenor in the choir who retired from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
The group explores all sorts of genres including spirituals, folk, classical, Broadway and holiday.
The music group is directed by a graduate student from the Choral Conducting Graduate Program. Their director this year is Angelica Dunsavage, a doctoral music student studying choral conducting.
This is Dunsavage’s first year being the director for the choir. She also works as the artistic director of Tucson Masterworks Chorale and the music director for the Celtic Choir at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church.
This semester, the choir is learning a series of songs to sing at their end-of-year gala picked by Dunsavage. The songs are based on the poem “The Work of Christmas” by Howard Thurman.
“It is a very social-justice-oriented view of the holidays,” Dunsavage said. “I took each of those aspects that is mentioned in the poem and I picked pieces that address those aspects.”
According to Janes, their Christmas concert is going to be all about Christmas, but there is not one Christmas song on their list of songs.
The Fall Gala concert will be held Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. at St. Marks Presbyterian Church.
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