Choral Director Jason Bishop Gets the Chair of the English Department to Raise Her Voice
And that’s just the start.
Assistant Professor of Music Jason Bishop did not waste time making his mark as Drew’s new director of choral and vocal studies. Last fall, just weeks after he began at Drew, Bishop organized the 87-member Choral Union, an ensemble that reflects his interest in the fellowship of town and gown. The Choral Union includes Drew students, faculty and staff members as well as local residents with no particular affiliation with Drew. Anyone, in other words, who just loves to sing.
“I don’t feel like I had to beat the bushes much to get those 87 people,” Bishop says. “I mean, they came out of the woodwork. We needed an ensemble that could accommodate everyone, from someone who did a little bit of singing in high school to people singing for the first time.”
In creating the Choral Union, Bishop followed a musical path he charted while teaching at Penn State Erie, where he founded and directed the Young People’s Chorus of Erie, the only comprehensive youth and children’s chorus organization in northwest Pennsylvania. At Drew, the Choral Union has attracted, among other faculty and staff, Associate Professor of Classics John Muccigrosso, Associate Librarian Jody Caldwell and English Department Chair Wendy Kolmar. Bishop says students get a kick out of singing alongside their professors. A choral union, he says, “is meant to identify an ensemble where quite literally multiple types of singers are unified.”
The Drew community has two opportunities this semester to hear Bishop’s direction in action. On April 27 the Choral Union and the 30-member Drew University Chorale, an advanced chamber choir he also directs, will perform Gregorian chant, music of the Renaissance, Appalachian folk songs, gospel spirituals and Mozart’s festive Regina Coeli (K. 276) in “From Darkness to Light: A Modern Day Compline.” Eight days later, on May 5, both ensembles will perform during the music department’s first production of an opera, Dido and Aeneas, a 1689 Baroque work by the British composer Henry Purcell.
Bishop has aspirations to make Drew what he calls a “destination school” for music students while continuing to pursue projects that involve the local community. “We have great facilities, an excellent concert hall and great faculty,” says Bishop. “The more collaborative things we do, we expose the community to what Drew has to offer, and I think that’ll be really valuable in the long run.”—Christopher Hann
But What Does Jason Bishop Sound Like?
You will soon have a chance to find out. Bishop performs at a faculty recital on April 14, when he will sing Bach duets alongside soprano voice instructor Jennifer Pomeroy.
Bishop describes himself as “that rare breed of male singer known as the countertenor.” A countertenor, he says, specializes in using what Bishop describes as “a cultivated falsetto,” a voice appropriate for earlier music. “So I especially enjoy performing vocal music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras.”