INDSBORG — There is just something about hearing a mass choir that Mark Lucas, Bethany College music professor just loves. Something he struggles to put words too. He loves it so much, he has created “Real Men Sing,” a camp for young men to spend time singing in choirs — and a mass choir that has grown to 800 voices.
“Hearing more than 800 young men sing ‘God Bless America’ at the top of their lungs with organ and piano accompaniment is one of those indescribable feelings,” Lucas said. “ … No amount of writing or talking about it can accurately describe it. You have to experience it. And that's why we do it.”
Lucas organized the event, now in its seventh year, after hosting a similar event at the University of Oklahoma before he became a member of the staff at Bethany. It grew out of his doctoral research — a project titled "Adolescent Males' Attitudes about Singing in Choir."
“The reason I started with young men is that, both anecdotally and through reading empirical research, we know that fewer young men typically enroll in choir programs than young women,” Lucas said. “ One of the goals of Real Men Sing is to encourage these hundreds of young men to continue singing throughout their school careers and into their adult lives. If more men sing in choirs, women benefit from having larger and more educated male singers in the group.”
His research found that there were two main reasons young men enrolled in choir — that they enjoy singing and a belief they are good at it. Those who dropped out of choir believed the opposite about themselves.
Enter Real Men Sing — a day for young men to enjoy singing, learn a bit about being in a choir and feel successful.
During the day, students in grades five through 12 from 53 different schools spent the day working with music professionals in one of three different choir/clinics groups. They finished the day as a mass choir to sing “God Bless America,” in a free concert, in Presser Hall on the Bethany Campus.
“I should mention that I certainly didn't invent the idea of having a day dedicated to men singing together. In fact, I often attribute the creation of the festival to an article I read in the Music Educators Journal by Dr. Steven Demorrest, who did a similar thing when he taught in Washington state,” Lucas said.
This year collegiate and high school music program directors were featured as guest conductors. Greg Bontrager, vocal music teacher at Buhler High School and director of the Kansas Mennonite Men’s Chorus, led “Changed.” Nicholas Griggs, vocal music teacher at McPherson High School, conducted “Changed Voices.”
Matt Webber, Vocal Music Teacher at Wichita Collegiate School, directed the Unchanged Voice Choir and Dr. Mark Lucas directed the High School Choir.
Each choir worked on it’s own repertoire. The high school choir sang “Annabel Lee” by Patti Drennan and “Shine on Me” by Rollo Dilworth. Changed and Changing Voice Choirs sang “Real Men Sing” by Kelly Lindsley and “Ride on, King Jesus” arranged by Nicholas Griggs. The Unchanged Voice Choir sang “Alleluia! Sing Alleluia” by Bach, arranged by Leavitt and “Tongo” arranged by Gilpin. The Mass Choir performed “God Bless America” by Berlin/Ringwald.
“We would love to have a day each year to offer the same type of program for young women,” Lucas said.
Students attended from Salina, Lindsborg, Hutchinson, Great Bend, Ness City, Eskridge, Chanute, Marion, Derby, Inman, Wichita, Abilene, Rose Hill, Peabody, Satanta, Bennington, Maize, Fort Scott, Marysville, Ellsworth, Haysville, Goodland, Sharon Springs, Caney, Canton, Buhler, Riley, Hill City, Prairie Village, Andover, Hoisington, Hoyt, Liberal, St. George, and Westmoreland.
Video of the performance is on to the Bethany College’s Facebook page.