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Touring Traditions: Baylor’s A Cappella Choir Hits the Road

By Lindsey Kay Hurtt

Baylor’s A Cappella Choir is preparing for a five-day tour across Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. The choir will depart March 3 for the second tour led by Dr. Alan Raines, director of choral programs. The ensemble will perform three sets of songs: classical, American, and sacred music.

Raines arrived at Baylor in 2009 with a vision to reignite Baylor’s touring program. Raines is the fourth director in the Baylor choral program’s ninety-year history, following Euell Porter, Hugh Sanders, and Donald Bailey.

The A Cappella Choir is Baylor’s most prestigious choral ensemble. Music majors and non-music majors audition in the spring for the sixty-voice choir. “Over the summer, they’re given five or six pieces that they have to take home and memorize before they come back. In the fall, we begin preparing for tour,” Raines said.

Nate Hutcherson, an Arlington sophomore and a first-year member of the A Cappella Choir, said, “What I find in this group is that there’s always something more we can do with the music. You can have your notes and rhythms down, and that’s what makes a good choir. Then you can add musicianship, and that’s what makes a great group. But then you can have these little nuances that maybe only other musicians will pick up on. That’s where we’re at in rehearsing right now.”

The group rehearses together three days per week. Even amidst the rigor of practice and performance, creating and maintaining a tight-knit community is important to all of the members, who have a tradition of encouraging one another and praying together before performances.

“Being in A Cappella Choir is like being in a huge family. It’s so full of love all the time,” said Rheagan Blackwell, a Montgomery freshman.

Audiences can expect to see the passion of choir members displayed in their music. “We show what we feel about the music on our faces. It’s a communication between the music, the performers, the conductor, and the audience,” Blackwell said.

“Baylor has a legacy of great church music,” said Stephen Gusukuma ’07, Raines’s graduate assistant and a master’s student of conducting. “It’s a place where the sacred literature of a choir can really resonate. When performers intuit what the meaning of the text is, feel it, know it, and believe it with everything they are, that changes the performance.”

The touring performances take place in churches, and the choir members themselves are often hosted in alumni homes. “It gives the alumni a chance to know the students and connect with them as individuals, bridging the past with the present,” Raines said.

Next year, the A Cappella Choir plans to expand its tour to the Eastern Seaboard. Gusukuma said, “Touring is vitally important to building a nationally recognized choral program, which is the direction that this choir program is headed, and it’s headed there very quickly.”

Tour performances are scheduled for:
Thursday, March 3 – 7 pm, Houston’s Tallowood Baptist Church
555 Tallowood, Houston, TX 77024, (713) 468-8241

Friday, March 4 – 7 pm, Gainesville’s Whaley United Methodist Church
701 Rosedale Dr., Gainesville, TX 76240, (940) 665-5588

Saturday March 5 – 7 pm, Little Rock, Arkansas’s First United Methodist Church
723 Center St., Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 372-2256

Sunday March 6 – 10:30 am, Little Rock, Arkansas’s Second Baptist Church
222 East 8th Street, Little Rock, AR 72202, (501) 374-9284

Sunday March 6 – 7 pm, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s First Baptist Church
403 South Cincinnati Ave., Tulsa, OK 74103, (918) 587-1571

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