(Written by Brenna Griteman, life editor for The Courier. Story originally published July 10, 2018).
SeaHwa Jung leads the Findlay Summer Choir with a calm, yet authoritative sort of enthusiasm. He heaps praises on the 50 or so singers of all ages and backgrounds, at the same time commanding excellence. Sometimes they get it right on the first try. Other times the choir practices a measure over and over again, working to round their vowels and begin perfectly in unison.
“Listen to each other,” Jung urges, singling out just the altos and sopranos in an upbeat section of “Jubilate Deo!” After a brief session with the sopranos only, he calls “All together, without piano this time,” and the rest of the choir chimes in.
“Good. Much better,” he says, obviously pleased.
Jung is director of choral activities and assistant professor of music at the University of Findlay and is leading the inaugural Findlay Summer Choir. Rehearsals are held from 7-9 p.m. every Thursday in Egner 209 at the university, culminating in a free concert at 3 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts. Participants range in age from high-schoolers to about 80, Jung guesses. And while most are from Findlay, some travel nearly an hour to attend the weekly practices.
The choir was Jung’s idea – something he’d tossed around since arriving in Findlay two years ago. He directs University Singers, UF’s chamber ensemble, and the Concert-Chorale, made up of students, faculty and the general public. Still, he thought a city the size of Findlay ought to have a summer choir – especially because most church choirs and school ensembles take the summer off.
Not anticipating the level of talent that would respond to his open call, Jung had prepared a selection of light, feel-good songs from the likes of The Beatles and The Carpenters. But he soon found himself very pleasantly surprised.
“We have many good, talented musicians” participating in the summer choir, Jung said. A number of school and church choir directors signed up, and some even brought along their students and parishioners. Many of his university students also turned out.
“So I decided to do Bach, which is more difficult, serious music,” Jung said, adding he did keep a few of the lighter pieces to help round out the show.
Jung, with a doctorate degree in choral conducting and a master’s degree in music, admits his professional teaching style can be overwhelming to some of the choir’s more recreational participants. But sitting in on the choir’s fourth practice of the summer, it seems they’ve made quick work of adjusting.
Jung begins the session at the piano, leading the chorus in a warm-up through the scales to the lyrics “I love to sing.” After another vowels warm-up and down the scales, Jung stands and leads the choir through a triumphant, harmonic singing of “You Raise Me Up.” AT the piano is his wife, Su Jung, also a professional musician and the organist for College First Church of God.
Shelby Wilder, a third-year, pre-physical therapy major at the university, is one of Jung’s students – a member of both the University Singers and the Concert-Chorale. An alto, she is originally from St. Mary’s but is staying in town this summer to work and attend classes at Owen’s Community College. She was thrilled to learn about the opportunity to keep singing throughout the summer break and is impressed with the size and diversity of the choir.
“There’s a huge variety of voices here and that’s awesome,” Wilder says, adding the choir quickly and competently learned to blend its sound.
Kim Grove of Findlay sings bass and is a member of the Concert-Chorale and The Millstream Singers, both of which break for the summer.
“It’s nice to get back out, singing again,” Grove says, adding the summer choir is preparing a “Nice, eclectic” mix of songs and styles.
Singers are still welcome to join the choir and can come to an upcoming practice. The group is also collecting donations to help make its inaugural concert possible. For more information about joining the choir or making a donation, contact Jung at email@example.com.
Facebook: Findlay Summer Choir