The Kean University Chorale has a professional credit to its name – backup choir for Judy Collins. The members of the chorale – 16 students and two alumni – sang five songs with the folk music legend as part of her Kean Stage holiday concert at Enlow Recital Hall on December 18.
“They were so good. They were so professional, and yet so fresh. Just delicious,” said Collins, a Grammy Hall of Fame performer, after the concert. “They were wonderful singers. They were very special.”
As the opening act for Collins, the Chorale filled the auditorium with holiday cheer with renditions of Ding Dong Merrily on High, Good King Wenceslas and other classic songs. The choir then stayed on stage, providing backup for Collins on the Christmas classics What Child is This, Joy to the World, Silver Bells and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
“Our students were thrilled to sing with Judy Collins, and she brought out the best in them,” said Mark Terenzi, D.M., director of the Kean University Chorale. “She is a very natural and fluid singer and represents the great tradition of folk music in America. We had to adapt our very strict interpretations to her more free-flowing, very musical interpretations on the spot as each song was sung. I am proud of our students who worked very hard to showcase Kean and our music program.”
Interspersed with the holiday music, Collins sang her best-loved songs including, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Send in the Clowns and Both Sides Now. She told jokes and shared stories about growing up in Denver with a blind father who was a radio host and performer.
“This experience has been so enriching. We learned so much about charisma and dynamics and vocal health,” said freshman Joshua Dunn of Bayonne, a theatre major. “To see a five-star performer – the way she steps on stage and embraces the audience – makes you want to bring that charisma and energy to your career.”
The concert’s final song – an a cappella rendition of Amazing Grace – was the highlight of the evening for Steven Switzer of Metuchen, who is pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in music.
“Performing Amazing Grace, where everyone was singing, was one of the best moments of my life. She was talking to everyone and connecting, getting everyone to sing along with her. It gave me chills,” he said.
The Christmas concert with Collins marks the second time this semester that Kean students collaborated with a legendary performer. In September, 24 theatre and music majors sang with Broadway icon Patti LuPone at Enlow Hall.
“It’s great knowing that I got this opportunity as a freshman,” said Rosemarie Manzo of Staten Island, a theatre performance major. “I can’t wait to see what’s to come in the next years.”