Kansas University's choral music department will undergo some major changes this fall. James Ralston, the director of choral activities, calls them "the grand experiment."
A number of staff members are heading for greener pastures and leaving gaps in the faculty that won't be filled because of Chancellor Gene Budig's "selective hiring freeze."
Also, the National Association of Schools of Music recently evaluated KU's program and determined the orchestra needed to play a more traditional repertoire. To allow the time to do that, the choral music department had to eliminate its fall performance.
"We perform two major works a semester usually," Ralston said with obvious disappointment. "Now there'll be only one in the fall. One of our trademarks has always been the major works."
ANOTHER trademark of KU's choral music department is the choral conducting program for graduate and doctoral students. "That's not available in all other schools," Ralston said.
Despite the setbacks, Ralston promises a healthy dose of choral music in the coming year. The department offers a number of opportunities for both voice majors and non-majors to participate in ensembles.
Students can enroll in the University Singers, KU Men's Glee Club, KU Women's Glee Club, Chamber Choir, Concert Choir, Collegium Musicum, Jazz Singers or Jazz Choir.
All choirs are open to students in any field of study, as long as they can sing, Ralston said. The choirs are set up in a loose hierarchy with the University Singers as a primarily freshman choir and the Chamber Choir as the most advanced.
"AS YOU get higher in the hierarchy, they almost have to be (voice) majors," Ralston said. "When we look for the best voices on campus, they tend to be majors, but not necessarily. We see all kinds of majors."
For example, Curtis Marsh, a Leavenworth senior majoring in business, has participated in KU choirs for the past three years. He received a voice scholarship from the university, but he sings for more than money.
"One of the main reasons that I do this at all is to keep my sanity," he said. "It's a class I can go to that I can really look forward to. It's a lot of fun. You get to meet a lot more people than in other classes."
STUDENTS earn only one credit hour for most choirs and two credit hours for singing in the chamber choir. Marsh said the time required of choir students is often hard to justify with such a small academic reward.
"Being a non-major, sometimes it's hard to spend a lot of time on a one-hour class that isn't in my major," he said. "But most of the time, the fun and the joy I get out of it outweigh the disadvantages."
With the exception of University Singers and the two glee clubs, choirs are filled through an audition process.
"We try to keep it low key, but we need to see your range of music," Ralston said. "We ask them to prepare a piece so they can really cut loose and show us what they've got."
CHOIR AUDITIONS for the 1990-91 school year will take place in 328 Murphy Hall from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 22-24.
Performances planned for the coming year include:
ChorFest, a festival of choirs with most, if not all, university choirs performing; Sept. 30 in the Crafton-Preyer theater in Murphy Hall.
Grantham Memorial Concert, a premiere piece written by Dr. Jared Grantham in memory of his son Joel Grantham, who was killed in a car-train accident in 1987. Performed by the Chamber Choir; Nov. 4 in Swarthout Auditorium in Murphy Hall.
Concert Choir/University Singers concert; Nov. 18 in Crafton-Preyer theater.
Vespers, the annual Christmas concert; Dec. 9 in Hoch Auditorium.
Chamber and Concert Choirs; Feb. 18 in Crafton-Preyer theater.
Choral Union and orchestra, a combination of smaller works by Mozart to recognize the 200th anniversary of his death; April 28 in Hoch Auditorium.
Various concerts and mini-tours to be announced.