Last summer, the Brookdale Concordia Chorale scored its first performance outside the United States, singing one service and evensong for an entire week at Exeter Cathedral in the United Kingdom. The group’s international tour continues this summer in China with performances in and around Shanghai after a Memorial Day performance at Carnegie Hall.
Founded in 2001 by adjunct professors Cynthia and John Balme, the group currently consists of more than 60 students, alumni and community members. Its membership is at its peak, with approximately 16 students participating.
“Last year’s overseas trip was special, and we’re so excited to perform in China this year,” said Cynthia Balme. She and John have taught music and voice classes at Brookdale for more than a decade and have served as director or accompanist for the Chorale over the years. Their love of music stems from early childhood, and both said it’s a gift to witness how the Chorale’s music has uplifted and brought joy to so many.
Preparation for the Exeter performances were somewhat atypical for a European tour. Usually, groups perform the same program at different locations. The Chorale performed different service music each day.
“Our sightseeing bus trips during breaks were full of intense rehearsals,” said Cynthia Balme. “It was a great experience immersing ourselves in the culture and performing each day.”
The Chorale usually has four scheduled performances each year, with two on campus. The group has also appeared at Christ Church in Middletown, Saint Michael’s Church in Long Branch and Unitarian Universalist Meeting House in Lincroft. The Chorale has also taken the stage at Carnegie Hall, with its next performance scheduled for June.
John Balme explained that the China tour represents a new approach in many ways, as the Chorale will sing entirely secular works in shared concerts with four Chinese host choirs. Each choir will perform alone for 45 minutes and then sing two songs in Chinese as an ensemble. The Shanghai setting is especially personal for John. His grandparents served as medical missionaries in China from 1906 to 1928 and were married at the Anglican Cathedral there. The Chorale is hoping to receive permission to sing in the cathedral as well.
“Being able to go to China and sing there is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the Concordia Chorale is great for making multiple once-in-a-lifetime experiences happen,” said Nicholas Kellogg, a 2016 Brookdale graduate and Chorale member.” He has sung with the Chorale at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC., Exeter Cathedral and Carnegie Hall.
Brookdale Concrdia Chorale performed last summer at Exeter Cathedral and will tour China this summer.