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Breaking the Mold
For choruses that do not regularly perform with symphony orchestras, their choral attire does not need to be so…well…black and white. A number of ensembles have tweaked the monochrome theme or broken out entirely, creating a look that is in keeping with their mission, their values, their venues, their audiences, and/or the style of music they perform. Typically, these groups have fewer members and do not regularly perform with orchestras.
The professional chamber chorus MPLS (imPulse) in Minneapolis was created in 2014 to “redefine the typical choral experience,” according to its founder and artistic director Samuel Grace. That mission guides the chorus’s choices when it comes to performance wear. “We are all about reaching new audiences,” says Grace. “We find that more formal attire can be a barrier to that. The mission is the most important thing, and what choruses should be focusing on.”
Each MPLS performance focuses on a narrative theme, and the singers put together concert attire that either fits the music they are performing or the space in which they are performing it. For the group’s April 2016 concert, Infinity and Beyond, in the Como Planetarium, the visual focus was on the stars and planets projected above the audience’s heads, so singers wore dark jeans, tops and shoes that completely blended into the background. For the Fall 2015 concert,Falling Awake, which explored the world of dreams in choral music, the singers worked with a blue denim “classy, casual” theme.
The singers find each concert outfit in their own closets, or make purchases to fit the theme, but their “look” is not left to chance. A small committee of the board discusses what kind of attire would work well for the season, and then creates a document with photos of clothing options. Singers bring their outfits to a rehearsal to see how they work together on stage. “That’s to make sure everyone isn’t wearing the same exact thing,” says Grace.