Singing Hoosiers set for Oct. 7 free concert in Columbus

THE sudden sense only accelerated Chris Albanese’s excitement the first time he stepped in front of Indiana University’s Singing Hoosiers at a rehearsal six years ago.

“I felt like I had slipped behind the wheel of an awesome Porsche or a Maserati,” said the director of the Grammy-nominated musical goodwill ambassadors who entertain worldwide.

If the group once might have been considered a sleek-but-solid sedan earlier in its 72-year history with its nod to traditional Hoosier artists such as Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael, it now purposely incorporates a bit of that sports car image, with music that currently includes everything from the Tina Turner hyperkinetic hit “Proud Mary” to Silk Sonic featuring Bruno Mars.

Plus, for now, there also are Sara Bareilles pop-oriented tunes from Broadway’s “Waitress.” Albanese, a Columbus resident who serves as professor of choral conducting at IU, will guide the ensemble of an expected 55 singers with a nine-piece band at a free show at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at First United Methodist Church, 618 Eighth St. in downtown Columbus. His decorated background includes a tenor role and world tours with the celebrated male classical vocal group Chanticleer.

“Attention to detail, beautiful tone and expressive phrasing are three things that I especially emphasize with the chorus,” Albanese said, speaking recently during a drive home from campus. “Those are things that people can expect to hear regardless of what style of music that we’re performing.

“And another thing I have done is creating off the imperative that somehow ties the whole show together.”

That sometimes includes student skit material, narration and the like — elements “that form a kind of connective tissue,” as he put it.

The chorus has been popular enough here in its appearances through the years to pack performances, whether at The Commons or other venues such as Asbury United Methodist Church’s music series. Current organizers with First United Methodist’s Fridays at First music series already distributed more than 100 of its free 500 tickets more than a week ago.

The church’s Janie Gordon, a former Singing Hoosier herself, pointed out that the choral group often has included Columbus members. In recent years, that has included such home-grown vocalists as Sarah Harpring, Josh DeGroot and Kevin Rudzinski.

Like anyone, Gordon remains impressed with the performers’ enduring popularity despite the public’s ever-shifting tastes in popular music.

“I think it is partly due to the fact that they still hang on to the traditional standards of composers such as Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael,” Gordon said. “And yet their full song list is actually so varied.”

Albanese theorized that a mix of factors continue to build the Singing Hoosiers’ following.

“I just think there is something enduring about good music presented by passionate and talented artists, and those artists become the vehicle for that music, it just has a way of drawing people in,” he said. “The beauty of the American songbook tradition.

“And now that tradition has expanded to become something so much more broad.”

And he holds one theory more, too.

“I think that there’s a comfort for many people, especially in the older set of the population, in seeing that this kind of entertainment endures,” Albanese said. “And I believe that there is an energy transfer during a performance. There’s an infectiousness about it. And I can’t really take credit for that, because I felt it myself the very first day I stepped into the room with the group six years ago.”

To help steer them toward even greater excellence.

About the concert

Who: Indiana University’s Singing Hoosiers performing tunes from the Great American Songbook, Broadway, jazz, pop-rock. The show is part of the local Fridays at First music series.

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 7.

Where: First United Methodist Church, 618 Eighth St. in downtown Columbus.

Admission: Free, but a ticket is required. They can be picked up from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays at the church. Donations also will be accepted at the door for the church’s Fridays at First music series.

Information: 812-372-2851 or fumccolumbus.org