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Kirkpatrick Choir to collaborate with Rutgers Percussion Ensemble at upcoming concert

<p>The Kirkpatrick Choir will be performing alongside the Rutgers Percussion Ensemble at the Nicholas Music Center on Douglass Campus on April 21. The group currently consists of 69 members.</p>

The Kirkpatrick Choir will be performing alongside the Rutgers Percussion Ensemble at the Nicholas Music Center on Douglass Campus on April 21. The group currently consists of 69 members.

Within the various choral organizations present on campus, some informal and some formal, is Kirkpatrick Choir, one of the most advanced choral groups at Rutgers.

The choir, along with the Rutgers Percussion Ensemble, has an upcoming concert at the Nicholas Music Center on Douglass campus on April 21, and then again on April 23 at New York City’s Trinity Church.

The Kirkpatrick Choir was formed after World War II and shortly after became one of the most prestigious ensembles at Rutgers. 

The choir, which currently stands at 69 members, consists of music majors and many non-music majors and is directed by Dr. Patrick Gardner, director of choral activities at the Mason Gross School of the Arts.

Gardner has been teaching at Rutgers and directing the Kirkpatrick Choir for the past 24 years. Within those 24 years, he has refined his vision for the direction of the choir. The repertoire lies in challenging and intellectually demanding works of new art, Gardner said.

To Gardner, the main goal is to not only challenge the choir members musically but also culturally and philosophically. The upcoming concert, focusing on Lou Harrison's "La Koro Sutro," explores metaphysical concepts through song and percussion.

“The composer, Lou Harrison, made syncretic compositions of structural elements of Asian and other world’s music and combined it with Western music. This piece is a setting of the Buddhist Heart Sutra for chorus and a set of instruments that the composer built himself,” Gardner said.

The Rutgers Percussion Ensemble, conducted by Joseph Tompkins, will collaborate with the choir and play the instruments included in Harrison's work. A professional violinist, Krista Bennion Feeney, will also be featured in the concert, playing a violin suite written by Harrison.

Gardner said this year’s spring concert can be described as “very exciting and unusual."

Much of the appeal stems from Gardner’s own interest, having performed "La Koro Sutro" in his undergraduate years and written his dissertation on it. The inspiration for picking music originates with his students, he said.

“One thing that inspires me with all the choirs is to challenge them in the way they’re challenged in other courses. I want to give them something that will be a learning experience and a huge part in their growing cultural awareness and their sense of music history and their place in it,” Gardner said.

There is no definitive theme or time period that the Kirkpatrick Choir adheres to in order to create shows, but a significant amount of its pieces are of the 20th and 21st centuries, according to their website.

Katherine Freedman, president of the Kirkpatrick Choir and a Mason Gross School of the Arts senior, is appreciative of this challenging, but rewarding, environment that Gardner constructs.

“He knows what he wants, and he’s a perfectionist, but that’s why we’re so good, that’s why we’ve been invited to so many different conferences. He’s so dedicated to the group and he demands so much because he knows that we’re willing to do it. We’re very inspired by him. You can tell he loves what he’s doing," she said.

Freedman said that the rehearsals are intensive, with the choir singing for nearly two hours, twice a week. Reading pieces for the first time is expected to go extremely well, which she said is incredibly intimidating at first. 

She said she is grateful for Gardner’s passion and attitude. 

He is well aware of the competitive and fast-paced professional environment and does his best to prepare Kirkpatrick Choir members, many of whom wish to perform professionally, for that specific atmosphere, she said.

The choir has been recruited by the Milken Archive of Jewish Music to record CDs and has had the opportunity to perform in New York City on numerous occasions, according to the website. Freedman said she believes that one of its primary goals is to spread awareness within the Rutgers community.

“We sing a lot about things that matter to people, but I think a lot of typical students don’t have the patience so much for classical music and don’t really know us," she said. "People wrote music as a way to express themselves, so you really get to learn how life was at that time. I challenge Rutgers students to use (concerts) as a way to challenge their thinking.”

Kelly Kim is a School of Engineering first-year student. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum

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