WO choirs learn the true meaning of “great acoustics”

Mitch Frauenheim

A glorious chord echoes through the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as the West Ottawa Vocalaires finish their piece “O Magnum Mysterium.” The audience, a few straggling tourists and the rest of the WO choir, is absolutely blown away. The ending notes hang in the air for a full three seconds after the singers have stopped singing. Because most WO students hadn’t sung in a venue remotely similar to the cathedral prior to the trip, the acoustics astounded both the performers and the audience.

  Even for a non-singer, the difference in acoustics is quite noticeable. The cathedral has much more reverberation than any of the places that WO choirs have sung. The sound bounces around the walls of the cathedral, so audience members can still hear the singers’ notes even after they have stopped singing. The most reverb that WO students have experienced is in the stairwells of the South High school, a place where the choirs will occasionally go to try out different acoustics. However, the stairwell doesn’t produce even close to the amount of reverb as the cathedral.   

  Unlike singing in a classroom, or even the Performing Arts Center, the notes hung in the air for what seemed like forever after the singers cut off. Sr. Peter Beyrle found the sound to be very intriguing. “It’s just such a powerful echo ringing in your ears,” Beyrle said.

  The reverb isn’t for every piece, however. A fast piece with short notes and sharp articulation would not work well in this venue. On the other hand, a slower piece with powerful chords sounds absolutely spectacular. The choirs performed these types of pieces in order to suit the venue.

  Singers loved singing at the cathedral. Jr. Lucas Sharar, another member of Vocalaires,said, “I greatly enjoyed singing at the cathedral! The experience of the fantastic acoustics was phenomenal.” Singing at the cathedral was one of Sharar’s favorite parts of the trip.

  Sr. Doniven Wolfe of the West Ottawa Select Women’s Ensemble (WOSWE) also enjoyed the performance. “To be able to sing in such a beautiful space was a great experience and the sound was overall amazing,” Wolfe said. Wolfe, Sharar, and Beyrle were just a few of the many students that were ecstatic about the venue.

  The change in scenery was a great experience for WO singers. Not only did they get to sing in the largest cathedral in the world, but they got to experience fantastic and unusual acoustics. Singing with more reverb made the choirs’ pieces sound different and exciting. This experience was one that WO choir students won’t forget.