Cincinnati has one of the most respected choral traditions in the nation. The Young Professional Choral Collective keeps the tradition alive.
800 Singing YPs and Counting
In five years, the Young Professionals’ Choral Collective (YPCC) has grown from a handful of people gathered at a bar to sing during the World Choir Games to a roster of more than 800 young professionals who have found friends and put down roots in Cincinnati through singing.
“How do you do it?”
That’s the question YPCC artistic director KellyAnn Nelson gets asked at every choral conference. Her answer is the Visiting Voices Conference coming to Cincinnati this fall.
“Everything we’ve done has always been about the singers and the experience first, so let’s do the same with this,” Nelson said. “Come sing in the choir with us. Don’t just come and talk about the choir. Come do it with us.”
YPCC is inviting community choral directors and singing young professionals from all over the country to join its alumni and latest set of singers for Visiting Voices, Oct. 21 and 22. The weekend of music will include a how-to session on crafting a community choir that appeals to the under 40 set and culminate in a “Greatest Hits”
“The idea is to immerse them in the YPCC mission, and the YPCC mission is connect people through song,” Nelson said.
YPCC is unique in the United States, Nelson said. It’s a community choir that doesn’t require a yearlong commitment, yet still creates high-quality music and long-term engagement among its singers and local businesses and arts organizations.
“The people who come through the door are people who already have fallen in love with choral singing,” Nelson said. “But they haven’t joined a choir because maybe it’s not a good fit for their life, or it’s a church choir, and that’s not part of their life, or maybe the people in the choir don’t look like them, or maybe they have small kids, or they’ve just started a job, or, or, or.”
So, YPCC works to squeeze singing back into their lives. Singers only have to commit to six-week choir cycles. Nelson provides rehearsal tracks, so they can listen to their parts during their commutes. Volunteers coordinate happy hour sectionals for socializing and rehearsing.
Singing and Social
“There really isn’t another choir like ours in terms of the social aspect,” said Jonathan Buening, who has sung with YPCC since 2014. “Our members just get together more. We organize one big event each cycle — a party or a potluck or something — but there’s something after nearly every rehearsal. It’s a real sense of community.”
Each six-week cycle includes at least one repeat song, so veteran singers aren’t relearning everything. About 150 singers commit to every six-week cycle — each one bringing 25 to 50 new singers to the organization.
After six weeks of learning music, each cycle choir performs, usually in a local bar. The unusual venues mean that even the friends or boyfriends who can’t stand choral music usually are willing to come to this concert.
During Visiting Voices, Nelson and YPCC’s army of singers will showcase their formula for success. Alumni will be reuniting with the friends they made in the choir. And they’ll also be showing off Cincinnati.
To start the weekend, everyone will gather at Cincinnati Shakespeare Co.’s brand new theater in Over-The-Rhine, and the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is providing maps of things to see and do in the city. YPCC’s social committee is organizing a streetcar pub crawl, and the whole weekend ends with a public concert at the newly renovated Memorial Hall.
Nelson expects 200 singers on stage. “There’s a lot of interest in this model.”
Have a love of song? You can learn more about joining the YPCC group (no singing auditions required) or catch an upcoming performance, visit http://ypccsing.org/.
Hillary Copsey is a writer and editor enjoying all the exhibits, music, libraries and restaurants Cincinnati has to offer. Follow @HillaryCopsey on Twitter and Instagram.