Columbine Singers keep it interesting | SteamboatToday.com

Columbine Singers keep it interesting

Autumn Phillips

Columbine Singers director Christel Houston hears something in the music from the 1930s that she doesn’t hear in a lot of modern music. She hears depth.

“When I hear a really cool jazz song, it appeals to the intellect in a way that three-chord songs just don’t,” she said. “The harmonies are more interesting and intricate, and it’s more of an accomplishment for us to learn.”

That’s why Houston organized a program of ’30s and ’40s love songs by American composers for the Columbine Singers’ spring concert called “Speak to me of Love.” She chose songs by Cole Porter and Duke Ellington.

For years, the same singers have been working under Houston in the Columbine Singers. With each concert, they ask for new challenges to keep their time with the group interesting and with every concert, Houston complies.

“When they first started, we were singing three-part music, because that’s what they could do,” Houston said. “Now, they have developed an ear for the music, and with every concert, we increase the difficulty so that it stays a challenge.”

The greatest accomplishment of “Speak to me of Love” is a song called “Cindy,” a complicated arrangement of a traditional American folksong. The song requires two choirs, singing four parts each, accompanied with a four-hand, two-player piano part and a fiddle.

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“This is a familiar folk piece, but I chose a difficult arrangement so it would be fun for us,” Houston said.

The concert also will feature the song “There is Sweet Music Here.” The music was written by American composer Stephen Chatman set to the words of an Alfred Lord Tennyson poem.

“It’s such a simple song but so beautiful,” said Columbine Singers president Catherine Lykken.

The lyrics wander in a circle.

“He equates music to a peaceful garden, but he also says that sitting in the beautiful garden is like music to him. He can almost hear it,” Houston said.

Not only do the Columbine Singers’ concerts need to stay interesting for the performers, but they also must stay interesting for the audience. Which is why, at the beginning of every semester, Houston allows the singers to break into groups — trios and quartets — of their own choice.

“This way, everyone feels like they have a chance, and it’s different every time,” Houston said. “It stays interesting.”

What: “Speak to me of Love,” spring concert by the Columbine Singers When: 7 p.m. April 30 Where: Steamboat Christian Center on U.S. Highway 40 Tickets: $8 for adults, $3 for children younger than 12. Call: 871-0108