Faced with decreasing numbers from last term, the Carleton choir is mired in discord that has left many of its singers pondering former members’ departures. According to members, mounting frustration with choir director, Professor Lawrence Burnett, who has been with Carleton for 22 years, has lead many singers to quit or plan to quit after Winter term.
One current choir member said, “a lot of people have quit.” During the fall term, members filled over two rows of chairs, while this term’s numbers fill only a single row. She emphasized that, “I really love the people who I’m in choir with, and that’s why I did it again this term. But I really don’t like the way that its turned out.” Saying that rehearsal time is rarely used effectively, “the main problem with choir is that it’s very disorganized…so we barely get anything done. Lawrence wastes a lot of time, and no one ends up feeling confident in what they’re singing.”
Echoing this member’s statements, another choral member said, “We do the first step of learning a lot of things, and we don’t really finish learning anything, so during the performance, we wouldn’t have an idea of how the piece fits together as a whole.”
Saying that there were “several reasons” for his departure, one former choir member decided to quit at the end of fall term. Combined with a lack of follow through and irregular rehearsal practices, “there just seems to be a general lack of organization such that it makes practices not run very well. As far as cohesion within the choir, I felt that it was very good. But, a good choir director is one of the main things that makes a choir, if not the main thing,” leading him to feel that “We just weren’t as good as I wanted us to be.”
A particular incident that caused frustration within the choir was when little time was given to prepare for a performance of medieval chants. “I enjoyed doing the chants and it was awesome, but the thing is that we didn’t know that it was going to happen. I think it was sort of sprung on [Burnett] too, but it was completely sprung on us,” said one member.
“I feel like Carleton excels in a lot of other areas, and that this should be something that it also excels in. It doesn’t have to be our strongest department,” said one of the current members, “but it shouldn’t be this much of a mess.”
While members focused on the challenges faced by the choir, third-year member Nora Katz 16’, maintained that her experience has “been really terrific.” The choir practices for three hours a week, “so it’s not a huge time commitment. Just based on the amount of time that we have to practice, the amount that we get done is really incredible.”
Acknowledging the choir’s current issues, Katz said that “there is understandable frustration, because sometimes things move slowly but that’s just the nature of the logistics of the choir program. I wouldn’t blame anyone for that.”
Katz also noted that while the choir is smaller this term, it is “normally predominantly freshman,” and that other factors such as changes in schedules and off campus studies programs also may have contributed to decreased participation.
In addition, one current member interviewed highlighted the mass sickness this term. Each practice had a lot of absenses by both choral members and choral leaders which made the term particularly difficult to prepare for the concert. Those interviewed acknowledged that this was out of Burnett’s hands.
However, the overwhelming sentiment from choral members interviewed is negative. “I really care about choir and I love to sing, but it’s going so badly, and I just feel so defeated by it, by something that I normally love,” said one of the current members interviewed. “I think it’s really hard to enjoy something when you can’t be proud of it.”
Multiple attempts to reach Choir Director Lawrence Burnett went unanswered.