Pitch perfect, singers shine

Rows and rows of stands held sheets of music while singers harmonized and sang soulfully in preparation for their opportunity to vocalize under the limelight.

The Pierce College Choir was invited by the USC Thornton School of Music to perform at the 2016 USC Community College Invitational Choral Festival, which took place Oct. 15.

Pierce was selected out of eight “outstanding ensembles” to the event. The festival was closed to the public, and was only attended by the invited choir teams. A maximum of 280 participants were set to perform, each choir being limited to 35 members.

The performance was taped by a professional photographer and a copy of the performance was given to each of the participating colleges.

A registration fee of  $300 was waived by the performing art faculty at Pierce to give the choir the opportunity to perform.

A set-list of three songs were performed, with the theme of “Love and Peace” including:

“When Peace Shall Come” by John Purifoy.

“Every Time I Feel the Spirit” an African-American spiritual song dating back before the civil war, with an unknown author.

“Amani” by Audrey Snyder, an African style song with text in Swahili. The title translates to “Peace.”

“Three of these songs we actually did in our spring concert of last year, but we also have a bunch of new students who are performing, so I kind of didn’t want to do something from scratch and we just started working on the stuff 3-4 weeks ago,” choir conductor  Garineh “Ga-Ga” Avakian-Akkus said.

The opportunity was given to everyone in Akkus’ choir class. The ones who were willing to attend took the 35 available positions. Including male soloist Jacob Billings and female soloist Leah Foster.

“I’ve done some professional singing before, and when I got to Pierce I got involved in the choir. We have great voice classes here, and I think the biggest challenge for us right now is that people really don’t know what a great music and theater department we have,” Foster said.

The choir was accompanied by Frank Garvey, professional pianist and adjunct instructor of music. Although the selected songs are fairly simple and well-practiced, Garvey focused on delivering the best performance possible at the festival.

“One of the pieces does require a bit of practice, but they’re relatively simple. It’s just a question of me being connected with the choir and Dr. Ga-ga, because as an accompanist you’re looking at the notes, but you really have to have a third eye on the conductor at all times,” Garvey said. “We prepare and  plan everything, but in the moment of a performance anything can happen.”

Akkus enjoyed that the students were given the opportunity to perform together as a choir and happy to share her passion for music with students even further.

Akkus said a lot of the students that are in the choir, especially who attended the festival, are not music majors but it’s amazing that music pulls people together.

“Singing in a community choir is important not only from an artistic and creative place, but it’s good for a person’s soul,” Akkus said. “It’s good for your brain, memory and vital signs. It’s just like food for your soul.”