Ensemble will present annual Christmas Vespers concert Dec. 1
By Kate Helm
The Graduates will present their annual candlelight Christmas Vespers concert of favorite seasonal carols and anthems 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at Colton Chapel. The College Concert Choir also will perform, presenting selections from its 2007 Winter Concert. The public is invited and no tickets are required. An offering will be received for the John D. Raymond Fund to benefit the choral music program. For more information, contact alumni affairs, (610) 330-5040.
At a dinner commemorating the retirement of John Raymond, who served as director of the College Choir and Glee Club from 1946-76, a group of his former students gathered around the piano for an impromptu performance. That night in 1980 they decided to form an alumni choral group, dubbed The Graduates, and persuaded Raymond to be its director.
“The majority of the current Graduates sung under Dr. Raymond as undergraduates, and despite the wide variation in ages of the group, we are able to duplicate the harmonies that John taught us as students,” says Charles Kurowsky ’75, group president.
Although Raymond passed away in 2002, his influence on the group is still very much a part of its identity.
“Dr. John Raymond still has a pervasive influence over the entire group and everything that we do,” explains conductor Philip Gehman ’56. “It is in his memory that we continue to keep energized. He was unique in music leadership and gave us a thorough education in music, team camaraderie, and a commitment to Lafayette College. He was a man of high principles and moral character who truly was a friend for each and every student.”
Through his career, Raymond recruited high school singers to enroll at Lafayette. He created contacts with secondary school music educators through his leadership of the Fred Waring Summer Workshop; they often recommended their best singers to Raymond. He also persuaded regional alumni chapters to sponsor choir tours throughout the east coast.
In 1986, The Graduates established the John D. Raymond Music Fund and Music Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the College. An award has been given annually since 1987 to the most deserving choral music student. The Graduates make annual contributions to the fund from concert proceeds, sales of recordings, and personal donations. Earnings from the fund, which exceed $100,000, are used to support the College’s choral music program.
Each year, The Graduates present a Christmas Vespers Concert in Colton Chapel that is reminiscent of the annual Vespers Services the group’s members recall from their undergraduate years. For the past few years, it has invited as guest musicians the College Concert Choir under the direction of Jennifer Kelly, assistant professor of music. The group also has performed during Reunion Weekend each year since 1982 and has sung the national anthem at home football games. It also has done several joint engagements with Voz Vaqueros, the Singing Men of Las Cruces, N.M., under the direction of George Jarden ’58, also a member of The Graduates.
Community performances have included the Christmas pageant in Bethlehem, Pa., a benefit concert to save Easton’s State Theatre, a celebration of radio station WEST’s 50th anniversary, and concerts for various churches and civic groups.
Nearly 80 alumni are involved with The Graduates, with an average of 30-35 members at each performance. The group derives its repertoire mostly from Raymond’s varied collection of male choral music. It performs Christmas, sacred, secular, patriotic, Broadway, and popular selections. Especially important to the group are its performances of College songs.
“We view ourselves as the ‘unofficial custodians’ of the College songs and want to maintain that tradition,” says Kurowsky.
Raymond’s influence and the College Choir experience have left lasting impressions that go beyond the realm of music.
“As organist and piano accompanist for College Choir, I had the unique opportunity of working very closely with Dr. Raymond during my four years as an undergraduate,” says Gehman. “I learned the fundamental techniques of choir directing by carefully studying how he quickly built and shaped the choirs and his selection of their repertoires. He always chose programs with the specific audience in mind. I learned to appreciate and understand a broad spectrum of music, and pursued sharpening my own musical skills and abilities. I later went on to apply this training in becoming organist and choir director in several churches in the Philadelphia area for many years. Whether performing or listening, music plays a major role in my life. I continually look to ever broaden my understanding and appreciation of this art.”
“While I enjoyed singing before coming to Lafayette, the experience of being part of the choral program under John Raymond allowed me to enjoy my four years at Lafayette even more, and to form a lifelong bond to the College,” adds Kurowsky. “Being a member of The Graduates allows me to connect with Lafayette College and to share my memories of my undergraduate years with others who have similar memories. The Graduates truly enjoy performing together, not only to sing, but enjoy each others’ company. Although some of our members graduated more than 50 years apart, we have formed wonderful friendships as a result of our love of music which John Raymond instilled in us.”
The Graduates is seeking new members from recent graduating classes. They are hoping to expand the repertoire of music to include more female voices as well as soprano, alto, tenor, and bass arrangements.
“The current College Choir has performed with us at recent Vespers, and we continue to foster a relationship with the undergraduates in the hope that they will join us,” says Kurowsky. “We are dedicated to preserving the rich tradition of choral music at Lafayette College.”
Copyright © 2007, Lafayette College.
The Graduates Will Present Annual Christmas Vespers Concert Dec. 1
The Graduates will present their annual candlelight Christmas Vespers concert of favorite seasonal carols and anthems 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at Colton Chapel. The College Concert Choir also will perform, presenting selections from its 2007 Winter Concert. The public is invited and no tickets are required. An offering will be received for the John D. Raymond Fund to benefit the choral music program. For more information, contact alumni affairs, (610) 330-5040. The Graduates have performed during Reunion Weekend each year since 1982 and has sung the national anthem at home football games. It also has done several joint engagements with Voz Vaqueros, the Singing Men of Las Cruces, N.M.
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