A behind the scenes look into the Elon Camerata Concert

The annual Camerata Concert will kick off this year's winter season with their concept, A Celebration of Light. The concert will be held in Whitley Auditorium on Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. No admission fees apply.

This fall, Elon University will host its 16th iteration of the Camerata Concert event on Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Whitley Auditorium. The Camerata Concert is focused on the concept of A Celebration of Light, which features the performance of lessons and carols, with a reading followed by a sung carol, from the Elon Camerata.

Director of Choral Activities at Elon Stephen Futrell says he intends to include readings from a wide variety of sources for the Camerata Concert. This careful selection of a setlist and spoken word allows Futrell to plan a secular yet sacred evening. Over the years, Futrell has compiled multiple scripts from their collected work in order to develop his vision for the concert. He has incorporated writing from English poet T.S. Elliot, as well as various other poems and scripture.

It is evident that Futrell is careful and considerate when choosing his desired scripts and music. For example, this year he has decided to highlight solely North Carolina poets within his scripts. The music and scripts are different each year, affirming Futrell’s devotion to this concert. He selects music from all different backgrounds. Some music may be traditional carols, new works, pieces from contrasting periods and cultural pieces, creating a melting pot of music.

By doing this, Futrell is ensuring that the Camerata Concert is open to a diverse audience and is an inclusive event. During the concert, the Elon Camerata performs each piece a cappella, or unaccompanied. Organist W. Thomas Jones improvises and changes keys in between each song, providing the choir with the pitch for the next song. Simultaneously, the 2022 narrator, Elon Chaplain Emeritus Richard McBride, reads the poems to the audience.

When asked about the purpose, and or lasting effect of the Camerata Concert, Futrell explains that he hopes his selection of music and poems reaches and touches the audience in a personal manner. The intent behind A Celebration of Light is light-hearted and thoughtful. Futrell invites these listeners to reflect on what he describes as the “upcoming season of light.” It is the hope of the performers that everyone finds an aspect of the concert with which they resonate, regardless of religion or faith. They hope that the audience can become more in touch with the humanity of their friends, family, neighbors, colleagues and their own humanity as well. The preparation that is required for the Camerata Concert is extensive.

The Elon Camerata is an audition-only choir that meets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as an academic class. Rehearsals include reviewing vocal technique and health, reflecting on the text within the chosen pieces and more. These rehearsals are broken down so that the choir can focus on specific parts, such as notes and rhythms.

Together, Futrell and the singers fine-tune a plethora of musical technicalities —phrasing, dynamics, articulation and diction, and the expression of the story. The Camerata Concert requires a full semester to prepare for. Futrell states that by midterms, he prefers the majority of the notes and rhythms to be mastered, leaving the remaining time until the final performance to be designated to work on various pieces section by section, polishing the musical details as they make progress. This meticulous adjustment occurs on Mondays and Wednesdays, while Fridays involve a practice performance of the concert in its entirety. Each Friday determines what the Camerata needs to work on for the following week. Since the concert is in proximity, Futrell says that he and the choir have been rehearsing the concert each class session in Whitley Auditorium.

Even only after a few years of introducing A Celebration of Light, the Camerata Concert has received praise and positive feedback from the Elon community and beyond. Futrell says that the group has been asked questions like, “When is next year’s A Celebration of Light concert?” It is heartwarming and gratifying for Futrell and the choir to learn that their performance is anticipated and enjoyed as a sort-of initiation into the holiday season.

As of right now, Futrell has no intentions of discontinuing this concept for the Camerata Concert while he teaches at Elon and hopes to have a full house of community members each year. For Futrell, the concert is a tradition, and he would be pleased to see it continue; however, he wishes freedom for future directors of choral activities to plan and build their own traditions or events.

Futrell encourages any interested students and staff to join Chorale or Camerata. In addition to Elon Camerata, the university also has the Elon Chorale (conducted by Associate Professor of Music Gerald Knight), a non-auditioned group, and Élan, a vocal jazz/ a cappella ensemble that is auditioned. It would be highly appreciated by Futrell, McBride, Jones and the voices of the Elon Camerata for all to attend the Camerata Concert on Nov. 29. There is no admission charge, and it is clear from all of Futrell’s efforts that the concert is destined to be an amazing performance.