Chamber Choir rings in holidays

In a musical realm today dominated by voice fabrication, lip-syncing and muffled babble, the purity of song was rediscovered, if only for a night, inside of a small, dimly-lit room packed to the brim with no more than a hundred spectators. Excited but respectful, the audience listened intently as vocalists and musicians, young and old alike, came together to create beautiful melodies seamlessly infused with enchanting instrumentals. The Santa Monica College Chamber Choir took the stage last Friday night, introducing the holiday season, as they performed their own renditions of "Carols of Centuries," slipping the audience into a festive Renaissance of both Jewish and Christian tradition.

Directed by eight-year SMC Chamber Choir veteran Nike St. Clair, the musical ensemble put on display a wide array of numbers ranging from the universally recognized "A Christmas Carol" arranged by Zoltan Kodaly, to the lesser known "Personent Hodie" arranged by Dean Rishel.

A sterling blend of sopranos, altos, tenors, and bass, the chamber choir exuded an immediate sense of unity as they stepped together onto the platform, almost as if they had been singing together for years. A type of stability that would be deemed impossible simply because of both the musical program's and SMC's structure.

With Santa Monica College predicated on two-year transfers, it's expected that "a community-based choir," according to St. Clair, siphoning members in and out could pose a problem, but luckily for any burgeoning melodist, the unabashed director leaves no doubt in who has preserved the groups' cohesion throughout the years.

"I do," said St. Clair with a smile. "I make them cohesive."

Even with such a confident and decorated director, the constant funneling of new vocalists into the choir every semester doesn't make the process any easier.

"It can be kind of tough, having different members come in each semester," said first-year chamber choir member and tenor section leader Manny Sanoja Jr. "It can be hard to gel."

With that being said, time does build similarity and as the choir's time with each other slowly reached its conclusion, it all started to come together for the ensemble.

"Towards the end we were able to pull it all together and all gel as a group," said Sanoja Jr.

Seamless transitions from individual verses to harmonies in perfect unison illustrated the kind of choir cohesion evident all through out the performance, and as the production came to a close with a rousing rendition of "Born in Bethlehem" by William Billings, a small but captivated audience stood clapping in union, with the melodic music still permeating in their ears.