The University Singers are gearing up for their annual spring tour, which will take them to various locations across New England for a week over spring break.
The University Singers are the University of Maine’s premiere audition-based choir, whose members come from various disciplines across campus. Nearly half of the choir consists of students majoring in areas outside of music. The “Singers,” as they are colloquially known, perform numerous concerts on campus throughout the academic year under the direction of Francis “Fran” Vogt.
Starting out in Augusta on March 7, the group will travel to New Hampshire and then head to New York. After a free day in New York City, the Singers will travel to Cape Cod, Mass., and wrap up their tour with a performance at Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine on March 12. The spring tour is considered a recruitment tour, where most of the audience are high school students who might be deciding on what universities they want to attend after graduation.
“The good thing is that we are the main choir of the music department, but only half of Singers is made up of music majors. It is a good way of showing [high] schoolers that even if they do not want to be in music, they can still keep music in their lives,” Vogt said.
“Anecdotally, I know there are a lot of current singers who found out about UMaine through the spring tour,” Vogt added.
Second-year student Liz Park is one of them.
“Singers is one of the reasons why I came to the university,” Park, who joined the Singers last fall, said. “It is definitely a big time commitment.”
Gwen Hill, who joined the group her first year shared that as the tour gets closer, the rehearsals become more intensive.
“As a group, we can feel what songs we are doing well and know what songs we need to work on,” Dylan Robinson, a second-year Singer added.
Both Hill and Robinson, who have both been on the tour before, shared that they have to adjust their performance attitude according to their audience.
“Singing in front of Fran is different than singing in front of school kids,” Hill added.
Singers rehearse three days for five hours each week, but during their tour, they will be together every day for five straight days.
“It is a really good amount of rehearsal time, but when you are on tour singing with each other two to three times a day, the bond gets stronger and you can really feel that when the music comes out,” Vogt said. “The quality of the sound really becomes so much better.”
“After the tour ends, we all miss each other a lot,” Hill shared.
The Singers will be performing a wide variety of music by composers, including William Billings, Samuel Barber, Stephen Sondheim, William Byrd and Tarik O’Regan. The Maine Steiners and Renaissance, two of UMaine’s premiere a cappella groups, will also be performing during the tour. Every year, two assistant conductors for the Singers arrange a women’s piece and men’s piece for the tour.
“Derek Willette and Merissa Jordan choreographed, arranged the pieces and did the whole thing. It is really awesome,” Vogt shared.
“This tour is a very well established thing because the Singers have done it for so long. What’s really amazing is that the entire tour is put together by the students,” Vogt said.
Each year, the elected vice president of the Singers performs the role of tour manager. They are responsible for the budget, fundraising, contacting the host families and much more.
“We sit down and walk about where do we want to go, but they [the students] take out all the information and make a plan. It is a really wonderful opportunity for students to lead,” Vogt said.
Singers will be staying with host families during the tour, except the one night in New York City, where they will be in a youth hostel on the Upper West Side. During their free day in the city, the Singers are free to do what they want, and some students are planning to visit art galleries and go to Broadway shows.
“I am super excited about the free day in New York,” Park shared.
The Singers’ last stop, Thornton Academy in Saco, is where Park and six other singers graduated high school.
“I am more excited about my family and friends to hear Singers perform live, because most of them never heard us before. I think Singers has an absolute brilliant sound, and you get taken aback when you first hear it. Even when I am taking a sick day, sitting in the corner and listening to them, I feel so honored to be a part of this group that makes such beautiful music,” Park shared.
After they get back, the Singers will highlight their tour by giving a performance at Minsky Recital Hall on Sunday, April 3 at 2 p.m.
“I am very excited for the April concert because that is when the group has done most of the work, and shows off what we have done the whole year. We have an excellent program this year. Fran has chosen some really great pieces,” Park shared.