Jamestown High School A Cappella Choir To Perform 93rd Vespers Sunday

The Madrigal Singers of the Jamestown High School A Cappella Choir performed for the JPS Board of Education during a meeting on Tuesday night to preview the Jamestown High School A Cappella Choir’s performance at the 93rd Vespers on Sunday and on Sunday, Dec. 17. P-J photo by Jordan Patterson

Since September, Jamestown High School’s A Cappella Choir has been rehearsing songs to be performed at The Vespers. On Sunday the choir will put its practice into action at the First Lutheran Church.

The Vespers are community musical concerts performed by the Jamestown High School A Cappella Choir for the last 93 years. Beginning in 1924, the concerts were a way for sacred holiday songs to be performed by Jamestown’s students for the community to enjoy.

Former Director Ebba Goranson founded the choir in 1924 and current Director Norm Lydell continues to carry the tradition forward. On Sunday, and again on Dec. 17, the choir will once again perform for the Jamestown community.

“It’s something that this community has recognized as kind of the start of their holiday season,” Lydell said of the history behind The Vespers.

The doors will open at 3 p.m. at the First Lutheran Church and performances by the choir will begin at 4 p.m.

The Jamestown High School A Cappella Choir is made up of three sub-groups as well as one large choir. The choir includes The Madrigal Singers, The Ladies of Today and The Men of Tomorrow. Lydell said the group is made up of about 75 members.

The Ladies of Today are made up of all women and The Men of Tomorrow are comprised of all men. Grades 10-12 make up the entire choir, and are subjected to auditions in order to become a member. Lydell said an additional audition is required to become a singer in The Madrigal Singers, too.

“(The Madrigal Singers) represent our premier vocal ensemble,” Lydell said.

Lydell said The Vespers give the singers a chance to perform for the community outside of a traditional high school auditorium setting. He described the songs that will be performed as “sacred music of the holidays.”

“Our whole purpose for the first half of the year gears up to The Vespers’ performances,” he said.

Former Director Brian Bogey will lend a hand by playing the organ and piano. Bogey was director of the choir from 1982 until 2003 when Lydell assumed the role.

“We’re a little different than typical high school choruses that you’ll see around the county, around the state, around the country anymore,” Lydell said.

The choir wears ecumenical robes – which represent unity among churches – during its performance, as per tradition.

“Most choirs don’t wear robes any longer, but it’s a part of our tradition and we have been wearing the same style since 1924,” Lydell said.

Lydell said the tradition is an aspect of the choir he inherited when he took over in 2003, and noted that it gives the choir an image of unity and consistency.

“We want to make sure we are preserving the history of a very fine vocal ensemble,” Lydell said.

Lydell said the group normally learns around 20 songs at this point in the school season. Referring to the amount of songs that will be performed during The Vespers, Lydell said, “a lot.”

He emphasized the performance is about quality over the quantity of songs. The choir also performs from memory rather than reading off of sheets of music. Lydell said this way of performing frees up the singers and allows them to follow directions from the conductor easier.

“You have to know your parts really well in order to be able to sing them without the music in front of you,” he said.

The songs are generally sacred “church songs,” but Lydell said the choir isn’t limited to just those as the choir has performed songs in Hebrew and occasionally songs in Spanish. He also said a few select songs performed by the students are pieces that are typically reserved for the collegiate or a professional level.

“My favorite part is the fact that these are not just high school chorus concerts,” Lydell said. “Their community events, and we have people who have long graduated and they keep coming to these performances.

Lydell said the audience may not remember what songs were sung and the names of each performance, but for the choir that isn’t the goal.

“We hope you remember how we make you feel,” he said, “and we hope that we’re making you feel good.”