New choir focuses on small group, early music

Graduate student John Martin has a deep love for any music composed before 1750. He has adored the genre, known as early music, thoughout his graduate degree and is now taking it to another level by creating an on-campus group dedicated to the genre called the Early Music Choir.

Martin said while there are a lot of very good choirs in the area, they tend to be larger in size. They focus on bigger voices and more contemporary music.

“When people think of a choir concert, they usually picture a group of 40 people or more, sometimes even in the hundreds, singing with a large orchestra, performing music written within the last 200 years,” Martin said.

Martin said he believes these sorts of choirs have great value, but he thinks that there is more potential with smaller numbers, which is why when Martin was drafting the idea for the Early Music Choir, he was interested in the closeness a smaller choir could offer.

“There’s a certain intimacy and shared experience that a small group of singers without a conductor has,” he said. “Without the baton up there, each singer has to be more focused, more tuned into the music and the other singers.”

Martin realized there was not a choir like this in the area. He believed the experience a small choir has to offer was too invaluable to overlook.

“It’s quite magical, and it isn’t something that’s going to happen in quite the same way when someone is waving a baton between the choir and the audience,” Martin said.

With that magic in mind, Martin came up with the idea for the Early Music Choir.

“The choir itself is just a group of folks meeting an hour every week or so to sing and have fun,” Martin said. “The original idea was to start meeting next semester, but there were enough people interested that we started meeting a couple weeks ago to see just how feasible it all would be.”

The group’s acting operations manager, Jen Stephenson, is a graduate student and a singer in the Early Music Choir. She is in charge of reminding performers about rehearsals, scheduling concerts and organizing events. While the group is just beginning, Stephenson said she has already taken a lot away from working with Martin and the other members of the choir.

“John is an excellent musician, and early music is what he most excels at. He brings a high level of musicianship to Early Music Choir as well as high expectations,” Stephenson said. “He has a wall of knowledge and experience in early music to justify why certain things must be done in certain ways, and we all really appreciate how committed he is to the group.”

Stephenson said Martin has proved to be an invaluable member in the group, not only because of his advanced understanding of the genre, but also because of his performance experience on the national level. In 2010, Martin competed on “The Sing Off,” a competition show among a cappella groups across the country.

“John was a member of a small group of singers who specialized in singing a cappella music, and rehearsed the group without having an outside, non-group member as the director,” Stephenson said. “This is exactly what the Early Music Choir is.”

The Choir may not be going into full swing until next semester, but they have still been hard at work preparing for their upcoming performance, Stephenson said. The Early Music Choir’s upcoming performance will be at St. Matthias Episcopal on Dec. 9. The event begins at 4 p.m. and is free to the public.

“It is a community carol sing featuring the Early Music Choir, so we hope that this event will help us get the word out about our group,” Stephenson said.

Anyone interested in learning more about joining the group is welcome to email John Martin at

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