Chorale, Undertones complete tours over break
Alexandra Muck | Wednesday, January 15, 2020
While many students spent the last week of break at home or traveling, members of Notre Dame Chorale and the Undertones went on tour.
Chorale took 55 members for a week-long tour in California, said senior Caiti Crahan, the group’s president. Crahan said the group, which consists of 65 to 70 members, takes a domestic tour each winter break to fundraise for an international trip every four years.
“On winter tour, we’ll take a break in the middle of the concert and all the students introduce themselves while we pass around collection baskets, and we make a lot of money,” she said. “Alumni are very generous and they donate to it.”
On the tour, the group performed concerts in cities such as San Diego, Newport Beach, Palm Springs, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“We do a city per night usually,” Crahan said. “Once in a while we’ll do two nights in a city if we want to give people a free day in the middle.”
The concerts are each an hour long and feature a mixed repertoire of Christmas music and songs from the group’s fall show. While the director puts together the program, the group’s tour commissioners do most of the planning, starting with reaching out to alumni clubs in September.
“Our entire trip is student planned,” Crahan said. “ … It gives the students a lot of practice being responsible for a trip like that.”
Crahan said planning includes reaching out to alumni groups and asking them to help find a church where the group — who practice twice a weekly during the school year — can sing. Alumni also find host families for the students and provide dinner while the choir is there.
While Crahan said the trip was a financial success — the group raised over $18,000 — she mentioned another purpose of the tour is to build community within the group.
“It’s an intimidating group to join because most of us are such close friends because we’ve spent two or three or four years doing this sort of thing together,” Crahan said. “For the freshmen, it can be a little hard to approach a group of juniors and sophomores who are super tight.”
To help facilitate bonding, Chorale mixes up rooming assignments on tour every night.
“You’re supposed to spend a lot of time with different people and get to know them better,” Crahan said.
For the Undertones, an all-male group that is a subset of the Glee Club and sings pop music, the tour is primarily about becoming better friends and engaging with alumni, Undertones president Ralph Moran said.
“It’s certainly a goal to at least break even,” Moran, a senior, said. “We primarily go on tour for two reasons. One is to bring another dimension of brotherhood to the group … [and] engaging the alumni, whether they be singing alumni or just regular Notre Dame alumni.”
Moran said it’s rewarding to have alumni say they wished the groups visited more often after creating and rehearsing a set.
“At the end of the day, that’s the thing that makes Notre Dame extra special,” Moran said. “We have this strong alumni network and we tour to share our music with those people.”
While the group typically does a winter tour in California or Florida, this year members toured the Pacific Northwest for the first time.
“The primary reason is that we think there’s been a dearth of groups willing to go up there, and there’s a lot of alums that are hungry for Notre Dame’s art scene to come and visit and engage that,” Moran said.
As part of the tour, the group performed in places such as Spokane, Seattle and Portland. They also went to schools and gave workshops, during which they answered questions about music, college and Notre Dame.
“We went to schools where there’s a lot of hype surrounding Notre Dame, so we served as an outlet for them to ask questions about the admissions process, what it’s like, etcetera,” Moran said.
One of Moran’s favorite parts of the tour was performing in the Space Needle in Seattle, which made the Undertones one of only a few musical groups to do so.
“It goes without saying, singing in the Space Needle was out of this world,” Moran said. “The Needle rotates on the top so you stand on glass and there’s nothing underneath you and you slowly do a 360 around the Needle. We were not even given a time we were supposed to finish, we were just told once you completed a full rotation around the Needle, then you’ll know that it’s time to wrap up your set. That was just amazing because we had the full skyline of Seattle and the ocean and then we had a really energetic crowd as well.”
The group started planning the tour in early October by reaching out to alumni clubs.
“It was a massive networking bonanza,” Moran said. “We had to talk to so many people to make sure the concerts could come together in this place none of us had visited before.”
The group also rehearsed its set, which included songs from Taylor Swift, Neon Trees and The Jackson 5.
Moran said based on the reception they received, the tour was very successful.
“We hope that it has paved the way for future groups of any type, whether that be singing groups or musical groups or dance groups, to go to the Northwest and pursue a similar trek,” he said.