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Alumni who par­tic­i­pated in choir during their years at Hillsdale College will have a chance to relive the old days on Sept. 28.
Pro­fessor of Music James Holleman, the choir director, invited alumni from the choir and orchestra to join the current choir as they perform during the home­coming parade and sing the national anthem for the football game.
“We give all the stu­dents that par­tic­i­pated in choir a wel­coming group when they return to campus,” Holleman said, noting that alumni tend to come back for home­coming more often if they belong to a par­ticular sub­group of campus. This sparked him to ini­tiate the tra­dition in 2001, four years after he became choir director, Holleman said.
As the home­coming parade moves from Central Hall to the stadium, it will stop in front of the Sports Complex entrance, where alumni and current choir members will perform several rehearsed songs. Later, the choir will perform “The Star Spangled Banner” and the fight song before the game.
In prepa­ration for this, the choirs will meet and hold a joint rehearsal on Sat­urday morning in which the stu­dents will meet the alumni over cider and doughnuts.
Holleman said in the past he has tried to vary the set of songs, but this year he will include pieces such as “God be in my Head,” which should be uni­versal to every student who has worked with Holleman.
Eric Leutheuser ’82 now lives in Hillsdale and came to alumni choir last year.
“I’ve known Pro­fessor Holleman for years, so it was a very familiar feeling,” Leutheuser said. “Very com­fortable. Just like riding a bike.”
This year, Leutheuser plans to be at the fair on Sat­urday, but he hopes to come back in future years.
“It’s a chance to perform with a really big group, which is unusual,” he said. “The college choir is really well trained. They sound great. It’s fun to sneak in and be part of it.”
Leutheuser’s wife is also a Hillsdale alum, and a number of their daughters has grad­uated.
Teacher of Music Debbi Wyse accom­panies the choir on piano during the rehearsals.
“One of the best and one of the most rewarding things about working here is seeing these kids come back, being highly pro­ductive and having great fam­ilies,” she said.
Though she often plays without much pause, Wyse said her role on Sat­urday will be rather limited, as several of the songs do not need accom­pa­niment.
“I don’t have a lot to do that day. I show up and eat cider and doughnuts with everybody, shake hands with all the alumns, see their babies, and stuff like that,” she said.
Holleman said it’s important for alumni to be able to meet Debbi again.
“She means a lot to them,” he said.
Holleman said it occa­sionally happens that alumni join the choir who sang at Hillsdale before he became choir director — grad­uates from the 1950s and 1960s. The total number of alumni par­tic­i­pants varies widely from year to year. Some­times there are fewer than 10 alumni; some­times as many as 40 return. Since the alumni are com­bined with the current stu­dents, there are always enough members present to carry the per­for­mance.