The Webster University Chamber Singers, a select, co-ed ensemble of 24 singers, recently released a compilation album titled “Beginnings.” The CD includes live concert performances from the past two school years, featuring 14 tracks of choral literature from many historical periods and world cultures. It is to be used as a recruitment tool and to spread awareness about Webster’s music programs.
This is the first CD made by a choir in Webster’s history. Director of Choral Studies and Music Education Trent Patterson said he is excited to see the CD made, and isn’t the only one.
“I think that the CD is generating some great energy,” Patterson said. “The energy is not only amongst the student body and music majors. Some professional musicians and conductors around town have been really excited about it.”
Chamber Singers President Maddie Dreher has been a part of the ensemble for three years and said the experience of making the CD was exciting.
“It is awesome that we have been able to compile all these pieces together and present our first album,” Dreher said. “We are just sharing our joy of music with anybody that wants to listen.”
Last school year, the ensemble performed at two music conferences: one for the Missouri Music Educators Association in January, and another in March for the Southwestern Division of the American Choral Directors Association. As a result of the two conferences, there was a plethora of quality recordings available to make a CD.
“Last year was a really significant year for the ensemble,” Patterson said. “I just thought that with the number of recordings I had from the performances, it was time to compile them. I knew we had plenty of recordings to choose from to put something together like this CD.”
Dreher also said the making of the CD was a collaborative Webster effort. She said the choir spoke with many professors in the music department and other students at Webster about the project. They also worked with student artist Ashley Webelhuth on the album’s design.
Undergraduate Assistant to the Director of Choral Studies and Choral Librarian Katherine Menke said she believes making a CD is a big step for Webster’s choral program.
“I joined the choir at the point when it really started to improve and really make a name for itself. It’s changed quite a bit in the past four years, and it’s really nice to see the changes come out (in the CD),” Menke said. “We are at the beginning of something big for creating a great choral program at Webster. It’s just at the start.”
Menke also said it was important to her that the choir received encouragement from the university.
For Patterson, the title of the CD is a direct reflection of last year’s series of firsts for the Chamber Singers.
“(Last year) was the first time for the choir to be selected to perform at these prestigious conferences, and we also took our very first regional tour, traveling to Nashville, Memphis and Little Rock,” Patterson said. “There has been significant growth in development of the program since I arrived in 2010. Webster had never performed at a conference before, the choir had done minimal, if any, touring, and the level of musical excellence has really grown as the quality of students has continued to increase tremendously.”
The title of the CD mirrors the choir’s beginning steps into the recording world, according to Dreher.
“We are all about sharing our love of music with others, and it’s the beginning of this relationship through recorded music,” Dreher said. “It’s kind of surreal. You look at the CD and you see yourself on the cover and on the actual disc. I think it’s a real sense of satisfaction knowing that you worked with such an amazing group of individuals to produce this product.”
Menke said one goal is to bring the CD with the choir on future tours and performances to spark interest in Webster’s music program.
“We want to give them to choral directors at high schools to give to their students to show them what Webster is about,” Menke said. “Even if you don’t want to major in music, you can do extracurricular stuff.”
The CD is free, and 500 copies were made. The majority of the money to create the CD came from donations. Patterson said the donations were provided primarily by current faculty members, as well as a significant private donation from a retired faculty member.
“The Chamber Singers and I also did a gig during the holiday season that raised a significant amount of money that also went toward the process in order to make this happen,” Patterson said. “We aren’t in the position yet to give the CDs to the general public because there is a limited number of copies. This is a high time for recruitment season, and we want to make sure those students are able to get a copy of the CD.”
The response to the CD has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Patterson. He said he has received messages from choral directors across the U.S., as well as from prospective students, who have complimented the Chamber Singers’ work on the CD.
“It’s great now because when I am out on the road at a music conference, or I meet a student that is interested in our music program, I can give them a CD,” he said. “I can pass on a copy to high school music teachers and say that there are great things happening at Webster and to check out our recordings and listen to our choir.”