Chamber Singers support advanced voices

Melodic voices echo throughout the stairwell, throughout the cafeteria and down junior hall.

In that stairwell, 15 choir singers, ranging from sophomores to seniors, rehearse with choir director, Lisa Riffel. However, this choir isn’t the Cardinal Choir many students have  heard perform before, but a new group called the Chamber Singers.

Riffel noticed the growth of Cardinal Choir, which now has 50 people according to Riffel. In that choir she says “there’s been people who have been in the choir for three years now, and their skills are really advanced, and then there are people who have never been in a choir before.” She adds, “I wanted those advanced student to have a place where they could challenge themselves with more difficult music and have a smaller choir experience – a chamber choir experience.”

“Less people, more musical independence where they feel like their contribution is more important and a challenging a capella music,” is how Riffel describes the difference between the normal choir class to the Chamber Singers.

In the beginning of the school year, Riffel held auditions for those interested in joining the more advanced group, where they had to sing a “challenging” song called “Sleep” by modern choral composer, Eric Whitacre. They had to learn the music on their own so Riffel knew they didn’t need someone else to help figure out the notes to the song and they “had enough musical independence and enough musicianship to figure [the music] out on their own.” They sang the song for her a capella.

Riffel guessed that there would be between eight to 16 people in the choir, and knew she wanted to keep it as a small group.There are currently 15 people with a mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors.

The  group currently rehearses once a week on Thursdays from 3:30 to 5 pm. This specific time contributed to the smaller group, as some students knew they had previous commitments. Although they meet only once a week, this means that they are expected to spend time outside of rehearsal practicing on their own, according to Riffel and Chamber Singer Sammer Suria.

Suria, a senior, notes how the smaller group environment allows for “more focus on individuals and focus on specific things. When an individual makes a mistake it has a lot more effect on the group as a whole, and we’re a lot more focused on the individual details and having a good sound – those things that aren’t as easy to fix in a larger group,” Suria says.

However, Suria, who sings for Cardinal Choir and Chamber Singers – as well as Vivace this year– still enjoys both choirs and singing with both groups.

“Cardinal Choir is a very nice environment in that she [Riffel] is very dedicated to making sure that everybody is learning the skills needed to succeed. However, sometimes for people who have been in choir longer they want something a little more fast paced, so it’s nice to have both of those environments,” he says.

His favorite part about singing in the group is the music. He says it’s, “much harder and it’s nice to have that challenge.”

Although Suria has only been in choir for two years, he’s been able to work with Riffel as a Section Leader his junior year and currently as one of the presidents of choir.

He enjoys working with Riffel because “she’s dedicated to pushing the choir and tackling newer and harder stuff, and teaching skills for students in the program. She’s willing to hear the concerns from the students.”

Suria notes that there isn’t any leadership in Chamber Singers like Cardinal Choir because of the smaller group and since it is new.

Riffel, who has been teaching for three years, noticed the level of singers and wanted to challenge them. She was in a Chamber Choir herself at Portland State University, and knows there are others in Portland, thus choosing the name Chamber Singers over Chamber Choir. However, Riffel cracks up as there are some student who want to call the group “Choir Power.”

Riffel enjoys all of the choirs she leads, saying “I find incredible joy singing with others and want to share that with my students, and I’m especially impressed with the students at Lincoln.”

However she also notes the differences between the groups.

“The repertoire is more advanced and it’s a smaller group, and because of the size of the group they are more portable and I plan on taking them into the community more and doing more community performances,” Riffel says. She hopes to take the singers to feeder schools including West Sylvan middle school and Chapman elementary.

Ultimately she hopes to see the choir grow, but no more than 24 people. “I hoping it will become a class,” she says. Riffel hopes “ to see them, as they learn their music really well, have more performance opportunities and be seen and heard.”