A window inside life at Augustana College

A visit to the Augustana Choir

In between reading about Native American two-spirits, catching a few minutes of preseason Chicago Bulls action (from Rio de Janeiro, no less) and flying around on a broomstick these last two weeks, I went to visit one of our choirs.

The only place I sing is in the shower and my shower isn’t in Larson Hall in Bergendoff. What was in Larson Hall were the members of the Augustana Choir, and their director, Dr. Hurty.

This term, they’re singing a Tamil song, Balleilakka from the movie Sivaji. Why someone wanted to arrange a Tamil movie song, I don’t know. Where Dr. Hurty managed to dig up said arrangement, I don’t know either. But somehow he found it, and they’re singing it, and that means they have to get the words right. But none of them speak Tamil.

That’s where I come in.

One of my friends in the choir knows about my multilingual abilities, and put Dr. Hurty in touch with me. That resulted in an almost hourlong meeting between the two of us where I spoke the words and he transcribed them into the International Phonetic Alphabet. I also recorded myself speaking the words so that the choir members would be able to practice to something. And then he wanted me to visit the choir in person.

I will confess that I wasn’t expecting much. The way people butcher my name (not the most complex Indian name you’ll find), I was actually quite nervous. But the choir impressed me. Of course, I did have things to point out, but they weren’t enormous mistakes. Once they get the words down and can sing them to tempo, I think they’ll sound really good!

But this isn’t just a plug for the choir, though it is kind of a plug for the choir. Throughout this entire process, I’ve been happy that Dr. Hurty wants so much to get this song right. When I went to see the choir, the students were equally invested in getting it right. They peppered me with questions about whether sounds are “flipped” or “open.” Though Dr. Hurty had to explain a lot of their (what I call) “linguistics language” to me, I was happy to answer as many questions as they had.

I like when people are interested in other cultures, more than just superficially interested. Not the people who say, “Oh, you’re from India? That’s cool,” and never mention the fact again. I like people who ask questions, who know that they don’t know things. Most of all, I like people who are willing to learn. I’ve met a lot of people like that on the Augie campus, but I met a few more in Augustana Choir.

I go back to see the choir in a couple of weeks, and this time, I’ll actually be excited!

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