Topics: College of Fine Arts, Immersive Learning

June 4, 2014

Musica in Situ brings choral music to unique architectural spaces
Musica in Situ is an immersive learning experience for Ball State students wanting to explore the performance of choral music in unique architectural spaces, including historic sites around Indiana.

Be it from within a church, a courthouse or the marble walls of the Indiana War Memorial, a group of Ball State University students is spending the summer learning how choral music can be made anew from within different architectural spaces.

Known as Musica in Situ (Music on Site), the project is led by Andrew Crow, director of Ball State's choral activities, and features students coming together as part of an intergenerational 35-member choir with area residents, all interested in singing at historic sites. This year's program features seven concerts to be performed throughout June, beginning at Friends Memorial Church in Muncie and stopping at venues across Indiana, including Indianapolis' Indiana War Memorial on June 15.

For the past three years, Crow headed the project as a recreational pursuit with each summer having different theme such as churches and circular spaces, but this year, he opted to offer it as an immersive learning program, partnering with Walter Grondzik, a professor from the College of Architecture and Planning, to recruit architecture students to the interdisciplinary class. Ten students—four architecture majors and six representing majors within the School of Music—participated in the course this spring, exploring architectural concepts and researching sites that would be a good fit for the music selected by the class for this year's concert series. This summer’s theme features stained glass windows.

Senior music education major Kasey Needham has participated in Musica in Situ all four years and was invited by Crow to conduct two pieces for this month's concerts. The class has taught her how to better focus on acoustics in performances. "It's given me perspective as a performer of how easy or difficult it is to sing in a different space—every place presents a new challenge, but leaves me wanting to sing there more."

Crow said he appreciates how the concert series draws together his students with singers who are decades older. "It's inspiring for them to get outside of the college bubble and meet these other singers in our group, some of whom are in their 80s, and to see what they can take away from connecting with them."

One of those community memories is Muncie resident and Ball State instructor Barbara Pavey. One of Pavey's favorite memories of Musica in Situ involved a performance at the George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes. "There we were out on the steps, singing 'Back Home Again in Indiana' - singing about the banks of the Wabash as we stood on the banks of the Wabash."

Recent graduate and repeat performer Jacob Burbrink said he was drawn to the program both because he wanted to work with Crow, an educator he admires, and to be able to sing more, something he loves to do. He hopes those who come out for the concerts or, in some cases, stumble across the group performing in an unusual, unexpected space, are reminded that the beauty of music "does not need to be confined to a classical performance hall."

All Music in Situ performances are free and will feature a variety of choral music along with a brief overview by the group about the history of each space. Over the past three years, Musica in Situ has brought music performances to more than 2,000 audience members in Indiana and surrounding states. This year's series will feature concerts at:

  • 7:30 p.m. June 5: Friends Memorial Church, 418 W. Adams St., Muncie
  • 7:30 p.m. June 6: Monroe County Courthouse, 100 W. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington
  • 1 p.m. June 7: St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, 2425 W. 19th Ave., Gary
  • 7:30 p.m. June 13: Elwood First United Methodist Church, 1500 N. A St., Elwood
  • 7 p.m. June 14: Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1004 N. A St., Richmond
  • 2 p.m. June 15: Indiana War Memorial Museum, 431 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis
  • 4:30 p.m. June 15: St. Mary Catholic Church, 311 N. New Jersey St., Indianapolis