AURORA, Colo. (AP) — Christina Bishop has plenty of practice when it comes to dealing with the logistics of putting together a working choir.
Bishop, who received her master’s in choral from Brigham Young University, has led large and small ensembles through music both sacred and secular. Still, for all of her experience dealing with singers, Bishop admits that leading a choir of medical students posed its own challenges — and benefits.
“One of my favorite things about vocal coaching and teaching choirs is that you really need to know vocal pedagogy. A huge part of that relates to the anatomy of the voice,” said Bishop, who took over as the director of the Arrhythmias, the choir based on the Anschutz Medical Campus that features med students and their spouses. “I can mention the diaphragm or the larynx to these students . and they all understand exactly what I’m talking about. They’re really brilliant, dedicated people. They’re very motivated. That makes it very fun.”
Organizing and conducting a choir is more than just fun for Bishop and her husband, Nick, a third-year medical doctorate student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. When Nick Bishop arrived at the campus to pursue his medical studies in 2009, rumors of a campus choir group stood out as a possible stress reliever, an outlet that could help defray the anxiety of medical school.
“When I was interviewing at the school, I told a lot of people that I was involved in choir. They told me a little bit about the Arrhythmias,” said Nick Bishop, who had sung in the choir before earning his undergraduate degree in physiology and developmental biology at Brigham Young University. “It was something that was really important for me. It helped alleviate my stress and kind of gave me an outlet while other things in my life were going crazy.”
When he learned that the choir at Anschutz had disbanded because the former student director hadn’t had enough time to handle the duties, he had the perfect candidate for a director to revive the Arrythmias.
“I said my wife has a master’s in choral conducting, this is what she does,” Nick Bishop said. “The people who had been involved in it before came out of the woodwork,” he added, saying that the first semester drew about 18 students.
Three years later, the choir has regained its status as a campus institution. While Christina Bishop has to deal with the busy schedules and frequent commitments of her med school singers, the Arrythmias has become an important creative outlet for both husband and wife. The size of the choir fluctuates with each semester, but the Arrhythmias put on a variety of shows on campus, including a holiday concert and a live performance during the School of Medicine’s Donor Memorial Ceremony, a dedication to those who have given their bodies to the school’s labs. They’ve tackled everything from the Beatles to the “Coronation Mass” by Mozart.
“The schedules are very different, people can’t make it to every rehearsal. People still will e-mail and say I just got called in or I have a clinic that night … That makes it very unique,” Christina Bishop said. “This is just a unique type of group, because they all have this drive in life.”
For Christina, the ensemble offers the opportunity to tackle secular material that’s not appropriate for her church groups. For Nick, the group has once again become an important stress reliever. What’s more, it’s made the sprawling medical campus a bit more intimate and approachable.
“I get to meet and interact with people from a lot of programs. It’s fun to walk around campus and see one of my buddies from choir,” Nick Bishop said. “It’s so much fun, and Christina runs a really great rehearsal every week. We’re all getting better together and that’s really satisfying.”
– By Adam Goldstein, Aurora Sentinel
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