Spring 2022 Semester starts 10 January and runs until our big concert in mid-May (Lincoln Center?)
Yellowstone Christian College Chapel
1515 S Shiloh, Billings, MT 59102
Mondays, 6:00pm to 8:30pm
Promoting Choral Music and Social Singing!
Sing, Montana! is a project of We, Montana!, a nonprofit educational organization in Billings, Montana. Sing, Montana! members range from about 13 years old up through retirement age. At present, we have one ensemble (Freedom Choir, mixed chorus) with a second one (Women’s Chorus) forming imminently.
We sing in lots of styles, including Barbershop, Doo Wop, Jazz, Classical, Sea Shanties, 50s/60s Pop, Negro Spirituals, and more. (See here.) “Something for almost everyone” is the idea of our repertoire! We sing songs that range in age from a couple hundred years ago to the recent pop charts–and particularly, whatever showcases the rich tone of the human voice and the extravagance of vocal harmony. See our videos here.
We presently have one ensemble, with a second being apt to spring into existence at any time. They are both under the professional direction of Jack Pelham. They are:
Freedom Choir formed in early 2021 with 27 members and reached 32 members by our Montana Christmas! singalong and concert in the Babcock Theatre on 13 December 2021. We hope to reach 50 by the end of 2022. Typically, membership is by invitation only, which helps us to keep a good balance between the sections. But being a start-up group that’s trying to reach a “critical mass” quickly, we’re actively recruiting in hopes of attracting interested singers to come see what it’s like to sing with us. We hope to find lots of nice people with good pitch-matching skills who can maintain their own voice part while others parts are being sung in the same room. We also generally try to keep vibrato fairly minimal on most of our songs. (That’s just a stylistic choice, but it does play heavily into the “sound” we’re going for.
We’re just now trying to organize our Women’s Chorus. It has a more modest rehearsal schedule with one 2-hour rehearsal every other weekend. (While we want to set a regular time, we’re somewhat flexible as to when it should be, whether Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon.) Our goal, for now, would be to perform a modest 3 or 4 songs per semester. This may change in time, but this is where we’re starting. This group may well turn out to consist of singers who’d like to join Freedom Choir, and are waiting for us to recruit enough men to match them!
INTERESTED IN JOINING?
We’re hoping to meet lots of singers who:
- Are people of good character: friendly and low-maintenance
- Enjoy a rigorous choral rehearsal, where lots of details are fixed and rehearsed
- Can match pitches accurately
- Who can hold their own part against those singing other parts, and
- Will be diligent about learning their parts at home (we provide audio tracks in addition to sheet music).
- Love to have fun.
- Love close and precise harmony.
- Are the sort to miss rehearsals very rarely, and never to miss a performance.
If this sounds like you, we’d love to meet you! We hope you’ll come to one our rehearsals and see if you think that what we’re doing is a good fit for you. Meanwhile, we want you to read thie entire website, so you’ll be well-informed as to what’s going on. (Here’s a useful Q&A page to answer some of the questions you might have.)
And if you’d like to contact our director, Jack Pelham to discuss it, please feel free! Or if you’re well-informed already and you’re all in, then join at the link just below.
What to expect if you visit.
Our rehearsals are very vigorous—as you might expect in an excellent collegiate choir, or an outstanding high school program. We work very hard at getting all the details of the music just right. For some, this is a grand experience and they enjoy it very much, while others find that this is just not their cup of tea, and that they’d better enjoy something much more casual and easy. We realize that there are two different types of people in this regard, and that we can’t please them all, so we want you to know right up front what kind of philosophy we have about excellence.
If you’re visiting close to a performance date, you’re welcome to listen and to visit with us during the breaks. And we may well invite you to sing with on a warmup number or two. Being close to a show date, however, we’ll need to rehearse our show numbers without visitors joining in, as we’re fine-tuning our singing at that point.
If you visit when we’re not in the last weeks before a show, you’ll have the option of sitting in the chorus and singing along (we’ll provide sheet music), or of observing from the audience seats. If you want to sing along, please do introduce yourself to the director when you arrive so we can get you the sheet music you need and get you seated in the right section. And we’ll be able to chat during the breaks or afterward.
You’re welcome to join us for two or three rehearsals as you’re deciding whether to join.
What if I want to join?
If you’ve seen what our rehearsals are like and you’ve reviewed our repertoire and think that this is for you, chances are very good we’ll want you to join right away if you’re a pretty solid singer. A couple of possibilities for delay are these: 1) If we have an imminent semester-ending concert, or 2) If we already have too many of whatever voice part you sing, compared to the overall balance of the choral sections. In these cases, we’ll have something of a waiting list.
What if I’m not good enough?
We might occasionally get a singer who turns out not to be as good as they thought they might be when it comes to singing on pitch, or at what we call part independence, where he or she can maintain the voicepart even when other voiceparts are being sung at the same time. This normally becomes fairly obvious and can be heard in rehearsal as the sections sing their parts. In many cases, the singer has come in rusty, and will quickly polish his or her skills within just a few weeks. If it becomes obvious that the singer’s not going to be able to perform the voicepart accurately, then we’ll have that dreaded discussion (privately and kindly!), suggesting that they withdraw from the ensemble until such time as their skills have improved.
What skills do I need?
Great question! Here’s a page that’s all about that.
Are there auditions?
No, but sure! We know that’s a confusing answer, so let us explain. Auditions are the most efficient way to find out if a singer’s pitch and part-independence skills are sufficient to fit in well. But at the same time, singing auditions create considerable anxiety for a lot of people (not all, mind you, but a lot). And what we’ve discovered is that if there are 100 people qualified to sing in a group, only a handful of them will be willing to audition for that group up front. So we’d have a handful, and meanwhile, 95 totally qualified singers would be sitting at home, not doing what they love!
Normally, we tell our members that membership is by invitation, and that if they know nice people who are good singers, they are welcome to invite them to join or visit. With this new open-house policy (where you’re welcome to come see for yourself at one of our rehearsals), you don’t have to know anybody in the group in advance. So, you could join and we could see how it goes.
We’re quite willing to hear auditions, however, for those who would be interested in doing that up front. It’s totally your option, and we’ll never bring it up if you don’t.
Is there a fee?
Yes, we currently charge $60 per semester. (We sing in the Fall and Spring, with Summers off). Your participation fee does not pay the volunteer director. Rather, Sing, Montana! singer fees support the choir’s expenses and the We, Montana! Homeschool Program, which includes vocal ensembles for kids, where they learn the skills they’ll need to join us someday!
Come see a rehearsal to see if this is right for you! You can just show up, or you can contact Jack Pelham in advance.
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