Singing in harmony happens when two or more pitches are combined, and it’s not that easy to produce, especially in choral music. When you listen to a Gregorian chant sung in unison, or a harmonically complex arrangement of an African folk song, many emotions get stirred up; the music has a transformative effect. From classical to contemporary, artistic director and founder of Concentus Women’s Chorus Gwendolyn Gassler, leads this all woman choral group to create a beautiful sound that delights audiences.
“Our goal is to create a beautiful and moving aesthetic experience,” says Gwen, whose love of music is in her DNA – a gift from her Grandad Hall who played piano and the organ.
Concentus is from the Latin word concinō, which means singing and “a blending of voices in harmony.” It also implies collaboration and coming together, which is appropriate given the collaborative nature of the choral art form that Concentus was founded on in 2001.
Known for their ability to produce a blended sound, all members of Concentus have extensive choral experience, and some have advanced degrees in music – although they have chosen to pursue a wide range of professions.
“Concentus is successful because of the tremendous efforts of each woman in the group, many of whom serve on our Board and various committees in addition to learning our extensive repertoire,” says Gwen, who holds a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the Eastman School of Music, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Colgate University,
“I couldn’t focus on our artistic growth and collaborate with other ensembles without the myriad administrative tasks they undertake with such energy.”
The women of Concentus are not paid singers. According to Gwen, they are striving to balance their passion for singing with their careers, families, and their desire for lifelong learning. Often, rehearsals and performances becomes their way of achieving their own kind of harmony.
You can hear Concentus Women’s Chorus perform live at a holiday concert featuring both sacred and secular seasonal music with guest instrumentalists on Sunday, December 15, at 3:00 p.m at Asbury First United Methodist Church.
If you can’t make it, you can listen to sacred and secular carols from a variety of eras and styles on a professionally-produced CD entitled “Make We Joy.” The CD is available for purchase on CD Baby or by visiting concentus.org.
Some lessons to young singers:
- Listen to and perform all kinds of music.
- Prepare your music. Learn your part before rehearsal. If you’re unsure of your rhythm or pitch, it’s unlikely you’ll sing well.
- Protect your voice. It’s easy to over-sing and push your voice to mimic current pop artists who often have a lot of electronic assistance in the studio.
- Be open to coaching. Learn proper techniques so your voice stays healthy, regardless of the style of music you perform.
- Take care of yourself. When you’re singing with others, you’re part of a team. You have a responsibility to stay healthy by getting plenty of sleep, exercising, and staying hydrated.
(this story first appeared in the September issue of Rochester Woman’s Magazine, but has been edited slightly from the earlier version)