Explore the Sound

When North Central College opened the Wentz Concert Hall in 2008 one of the features they were most proud of were the nearly perfect acoustics that are on par with New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

In the college’s fourth annual “Explore the Sound” concert, music ensembles performed in every possible location to demonstrate the flexibility of the venue.

“It was very interesting to hear all the different pieces and how they all hit the different spots of Wentz, it’s just a really amazing concert,” said Emma Blincoe, Sophomore, Women’s Chorale.

“The way the concert hall is built, everything just resonates so nicely and it’s such a great sound,” said Salvador Alatriste, Senior, Chamber Singers.

“The acoustics are fantastic,” said audience members Anita Moore and Ron VanDerberg. “You can hear everything. You just don’t miss anything.”

While it may seem to the audience that the location of the next song is random it’s actually the purpose of the concert. Back in 2008 when the Wentz was first built, directors, musicians and instrumentalists went on a musical journey playing, singing and experimenting in every nook and cranny of the performance space. The concert was such a success they made it an annual event.

“That first year we really truly did need to explore it because we just didn’t know what it was made out of or how we should perform,” said Ramona Wis, Women’s Chorale and Chamber Singers Conductor and Professor of Music.

The concert incorporates the voices of the Women’s Chorale, the Cardinal Chorus and the Chamber Singers and the sound of flutes, strings and piano pieces. While many of the transitions between the groups are planned to get the performers in and out smoothly, directors choose much of their repertoire far in advance with a particular location in mind.

“The director of Cardinal Chorus really chose “Prayer of the Children” thinking ‘I want the singers to be hidden, I want the sound to just come out but I don’t want people to look at the singers. I want them to think about the signers,’” said Wis. “So to be hidden that means you have to be in the sound chamber. So I think a lot of us start to think about where it makes most sense.”
From the audience perspective, it flows smoothly creating a guessing game of sorts. But the musicians don’t just show up and magic happens.

“It’s really a combination of being focused, being musical, but also using your brains because you do have to think about a lot of things to really make it work,” said Wis. “There’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of discipline, there’s a lot of multitasking and a lot of creativity. That piece that the women did sitting on the floor, they created this rain idea, much of that is improvised.

It’s not part of the score; we’ve changed it and morphed it over the last few weeks as artists, creating together. I hope people get that because that’s really what it means to be an artist.”

Explore the Sound covers every genre of music from the sound of the rainforest to madrigal, from songs in different languages to old hymns.

The Women’s Chorale dedicated the song “Beside the Still Waters,” which recites the Lord’s Prayer, to 2011 alumnus Shaun Wild who lost his life in a tragic incident earlier this month.

This year’s “Explore the Sound” is a fundraiser. All proceeds will go to the Women’s Chorale to help offset student’s costs for their tour of Ireland in June.

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