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UNC Glee Club hosts male high schoolers for two-day singing festival

mens choral festival.jpg
The UNC Glee Club (Tenors and Basses) has hosted ACIMCF for over 15 years. The two-day-long annual event allows low-voiced choir singers from North Carolina high schools to learn, rehearse and perform music alongside the Glee Club. Photo courtesy of Dan Huff.

If you find yourself walking past Hill Hall on Saturday evening, stop and listen for the rich sound of 150 tenor and bass voices singing the music of John Legend, Josh Groban and Psalm 98.

This eclectic repertoire is the centerpiece of the 2020 All-Carolina Invitational Male Choral Festival final concert, which will take place in the James and Susan Moeser Auditorium at 5:30 p.m. 

The UNC Glee Club (Tenors and Basses) has hosted ACIMCF for over 15 years. The two-day-long annual event allows low-voiced choir singers from North Carolina high schools to learn, rehearse and perform music alongside the Glee Club.  

Glee Club tenor and co-All-Carolina coordinator Josh Hawkins said he enjoys how the festival lets the college singers function as role models for the high schoolers. Hawkins also said he appreciates getting to share the experience of singing in a large choir with participants who may not be able to otherwise. 

“And that’s what I kind of get out of it," Hawkins said. "I like seeing my past self and being able to help them and be a role model to them, and that also makes me more aware of what I’m doing, of what I’m singing and how I’m singing, and how I can change to be a better role model.”  

Glee Club bass Evan Bellamy said the high schoolers have a day and a half to learn multiple pieces.

“Learning that music in such a short amount of time can be a little daunting,” Bellamy said. “And that’s kind of where the members of the Men’s Glee Club come in and help with being a positive role model.”  

Music professor Dan Huff, founder of ACIMCF and longtime director of the UNC Glee Club Tenors and Basses, said the festival aims to break down the gendered stigma that surrounds male singing. Huff said boys are raised believing that it is not appropriate for them to sing. 

Huff said this festival is trying to do away with that notion. 

"We want to promote male choral sound, and we want to promote the idea that it's OK for boys to sing," Huff said. 

Singing with the college men provides some cushioning for the high schoolers’ voices, which develop as hormone changes lengthen the vocal chords, Huff said.

"They crash around, pitch-wise," Huff said. "They literally bump into the walls. So we’re just giving them a wider alley. It doesn’t sound so bad when they bump.”  

Glee Club baritone Kyle Rodriguez, a music major, participated in the festival all four years of high school. He said his experience influenced his decision to attend UNC. 

"There was such an excellent role model of what I think we'd aspire to sing like or express ourselves as, when they’re singing up on that stage," Rodriguez said. "I think it really does inspire a lot of people who come to this festival.”  

This year’s festival features guest conductor Jefferson Johnson, conductor of the Men’s Chorus at the University of Kentucky.  

“One of the reasons why I like him is he programs the way I do,” Huff said about Johnson. “I call it my wedding program. Something old, something new. Something borrowed, something blue.”  

Huff said the final concert program alternates between old-fashioned male chorus singing and more contemporary, gospel-influenced compositions, like “Glory” from the movie "Selma," performed by Common and John Legend. 

“It's a great way to open yourself up to the things that are being shared in the music," Rodriguez said. "And just the general experience of being in that room and sharing with everyone else is just, it’s just a joy, and really wonderful.”  

@marycatking

arts@dailytarheel.com

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