Duke Chorale: Family or club?

It's no secret that Duke has a bustling arts scene and an abundance of musical talent. And when most think of the singing scene at Duke, the first groups that come to mind are often a cappella clubs like The Pitchforks, Lady Blue or Speak of the Devil, which are student-run and student-created. However, there is an entire ecosystem of groups that are university-run and led by professional directors. One such group is Duke Chorale, which has its own quirks and focus.

Duke Chorale has its origins in an important moment in Duke’s history: the gradual shift from gender-segregated education to mixed-gender education. This change led to the dissolution of the Women’s College and the incorporation of female students into the wider university in 1972. The evolving reality of Duke left the Women’s and Men’s Glee Clubs — who, at the time, were among the campus musical scene’s dominant players — in an awkward position. To adapt, in 1970, they merged into a single, co-ed singing group named Duke Chorale, according to Duke Chorale Director Allan Friedman (Trinity ‘99).

Today, Duke Chorale is an organization associated with the Department of Music. It has between 50 and 55 members each year, with new members (who can be undergraduates, graduate students or alumni) chosen through auditions at the beginning of each academic year. Chorale is also a half-credit academic class, meaning members attend weekly practices from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Bone Rehearsal Hall. At these practices, members rehearse a mixture of secular and sacred music drawn from a diverse array of time periods and traditions. This music is performed throughout the year — with or without an accompanying orchestra — at concerts on and off campus, at benefits for local organizations, at local retirement homes and on a yearly travel tour (they visited D.C. and Northern Virginia this year). Their most notable yearly performances include the Family Weekend and Holiday Concerts as well as the Christmas Concert (which gathers food for local homeless shelters).

From the outside, Duke Chorale’s nature and its rigorous rehearsal schedule make it seem like an organization intended only for those wanting to pursue a career in the musical industry. However, this is far from the truth. Most of the members of Duke Chorale are not music majors, and instead study everything from biology to economics to computer science. Freshman member Angela Claveria — who spent 8 years performing in choirs prior to attending Duke — attributed her choice to audition for Duke Chorale to her love of music. An additional, yet secondary, motivation was a desire to further improve her musical ability, which she did through learning new techniques from her fellow members and from Director Allan Friedman. Her love for music is shared by every member of Duke Chorale’s, and this collective passion form the basis of a close-knit club community.

This close-knit community helps foster two other defining characteristics of the organization: a sense of camaraderie and vibrant social scene. Babu Chatterjee, a senior and a member of Duke Chorale, described the community of Chorale as genuine and as one of the reasons he stayed with the group, in addition to fondly remembering all the time he spent hanging out with people from Chorale. Angela similarly emphasized the community of Chorale, mentioning that they had been welcoming from the very beginning.

And this community exists even after graduation, with Director Friedman — himself a former student member of the organization — saying that he still counts people he met through Duke Chorale among his closest friends. When asked how they would describe Chorale if they could only use one word, Angela said “family,” while Babu said “warm,” further emphasizing how vital, present and inclusive Chorale’s community is. Membership in Chorale isn’t just being part of some faceless organization, it’s being a part of a group of people who know and care about one another.

Disclaimer: Babu Chatterjee is a staff member of The Chronicle in the Sports department.

Zev van Zanten | Campus Arts Editor

Zev van Zanten is a Trinity sophomore and campus arts editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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