Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Arts & Culture: Lang Ensembles Rock Classics & Pop


Conrad Chu conducts the Arts Ensemble. Photographed by Lauren Gautier.

By Linh Tran

On April 25, 120 people filled Wollman Hall for the Second Annual Spring Serenade. The Lang College Singers and the New School Arts Ensemble played a 90-minute concert of classical and modern pop music. Conrad Chu, a part-time faculty member who instructs the Lang College singers, directed.

Both groups, conducted by Chu, performed a diverse mix of songs, such as the College Singers' Elizabethan madrigal and the Arts Ensemble's James Bond Medley.

In 2005, Chu pitched his idea for a New School Arts Ensemble to the Office of Provost's Faculty Development Fund.

"It was an ambitious idea of mine to develop an orchestra based in Lang but open to the New School community," said Chu. He was given a $5,000 grant to start the organization, which was used to begin building a library of sheet music for the group.

Chu, who graduated from Mannes with a degree in conducting, began directing the Lang College Singers while he was completing his degree in 1998. As a pianist, Chu's objective was to provide a performance outlet for amateur players who once participated in their high school marching bands or orchestras.

Initially Lang offered the Ensemble as a course in spring of 2006, but was cancelled due to lack of interest. That didn�t deter Chu or those who were interested in performing. The group became an extracurricular activity that was open to the entire New School community.

"We are very grateful to Lang for allowing us space without charging us," said Chu. "We don't charge a membership fee. It's a very collegial, open environment."

The orchestra primarily plays music from their library. Other costs, such as practice space fees, are kept to a minimum. Though the group is open to everyone, Chu hopes to attract a larger number of Lang students. Currently there are three to five Lang students at any given practice. Most of the current ensemble members are New School staff and faculty.

"It gave me an outlet to continue playing music," said Elise Yablon, a Lang sophomore. "I have been playing the flute for about 11 years continuously and to be able to keep playing in college is great."

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