Westminster College’s Churchill Singers are wrapping up final rehearsals for their upcoming concert Caritas & Communion: Songs of Fellowship. The concert is Friday night, April 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury. Westminster Today caught up with Dr. Natasia Sexton, Churchill Singers conductor and Associate Professor of Music, and student singers to learn more about this concert and their work together.
Dr. Sexton explains, “Each semester I design our concert around a thematic idea so that we explore the music we sing within a context that is relevant and meaningful. My goal has always been to create intimate performances where we share ideas with our audience and how we feel about those ideas.”
The choir’s repertoire this semester has explored the concepts of charity (the Latin word for charity is caritas) and communion. “In a nutshell, we’re singing about fellowship. Whether the songs are sacred or secular, each one provides a window as to how our lives are made richer and fuller through acts of communion and charity,” says Dr. Sexton.
Megan Davis ’19 KAѲ from St. Louis, Missouri shares that even though Churchill Singers has always been a “breath of fresh air” for her that this semester has been the most rewarding one yet. She explains, “The theme of this program is not only entertaining and beautiful, but it’s also important. Compassion, charity, and community seem to be lacking today. These songs serve as a reminder of why we are here and what we are intended to do.”
Michael Summerlin ’21 from Lexington, Missouri agrees with Davis and adds, “These songs suggest that we need to give back—whether through activism or charity, these songs illustrate the importance of working together.”
While Abby Beach ’20 from Lexington, Missouri reflected on the meanings of charity and communion, she acknowledges that “as someone planning to go into the medical field, I’ll be joining a community of professionals who spend their time helping others, so this concert theme really speaks to me.”
Although the music is connected through a theme of fellowship, the concert offers stylistic diversity. The concert is to open with an arrangement of the communion hymn “Let Us Break Bread Together.” Closing the concert is Harry Belafonte’s “Turn the World Around”—a song that was featured in a 1979 episode of The Muppets where Belafonte introduced it by asking “Do I know who you are, or who I am? Do we care about each other? Because if we do, together we can turn the world around.” Between these are a Latin motet, folk songs, and a rousing arrangement of Freddie Mercury’s “Somebody to Love.”
Alyssa Harrison ’18 from Little Rock, Arkansas has sung with the Churchill Singers for two years, and she suggests that this concert will be a time for the audience and singers to pause and truly appreciate where we are. “The song ‘The Road Home’ resonates with me because I was raised as an American citizen in the Bahamas with Bahamian parents, and this piece talks about finding your home in the world, about truly finding a place where you belong,” she says.
Student singers admit that they really enjoy recognizing people in the audience. Sam Jenkins ’19 ΦΔΘ from Tempe, Arizona says that because he is from out of state, his favorite part of any concert is “probably looking out into the audience and spotting the people I know. I know my parents aren’t likely to fly out to watch me sing, so I rely on my friends to show up and I feel like I’m giving back to them by singing. I love that many of my fraternity brothers are in choir with me, so in a sense, my family does come to watch me sing when I see a group of Phi Delts sitting in the audience.”
The Churchill Singers are looking forward to sharing their music with guests on April 20. This concert is free and open to the public and will be followed by a coffee reception in the Churchill Memorial.