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UMaine Singers hit the road

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Group photo of University Singers Group photo of University Singers Photo courtesy of Philip Kolmar/UMaine

ORONO - The University of Maine Singers have a spring in their step and a number of songs in their hearts that they are sharing with audiences throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts this week. The 70-member choir is spending their spring break on tour performing for area schools during the day and at public concerts at night. It's an annual tradition that's been going on for years under the direction of Dr. Dennis Cox, the UMaine director of choral activities.

"This group right now is as good as any I've had," said Cox. "I've been with the Singers for almost 36 years and it's been amazing."

In that time, Cox has had the opportunity to take the UMaine Singers all over New England and to Europe. 

"We have sung at Carnegie Hall three times under my direction, and every four years we go to Europe and sing at some of these 14th- and 15th-century places with wonderful acoustics," he said. "My job is a lot like a coach: you build a team, a family."

And that family is hand-selected during open auditions held the first week of school. Only the most musically advanced students are chosen to join the Singers. Morgan Cates of Camden is one of them. 

"For me it's an honor to be part of this," said Cates. "We rehearse five days a week, so you develop just a huge extended family. I'm just as close to them as I am my siblings, and that's a special thing not a lot of people can say."

Approximately half of the students in the group, including Cates, are all majoring in something other than music.

"I do have a minor in music, so it helps to justify what I'm doing in a way, but it's important to have that outlet in college," explained Cates. "To go make music with my friends makes it easier to cope with everything else you have to do."

A lot of people who attend the UMaine Singers concerts, including former members or other UMaine graduates, are sure to recognize a few familiar tunes.

"We do a song called ‘Jabberwocky’ by Sam Pottle before the Maine Stein Song. That's a song Dr. Cox has been doing since the first year with the University Singers. It has choreography, and we invite Maine alumni to come on stage with us [for that]," said Cates.

The UMaine Singers will complete their spring tour on Friday just outside of Boston. It'll be a bittersweet finale for all - especially Cox, who plans to retire at the end of the school year.

"I've been here most of my life. I think it's time to do something else than stand up and wave my baton," he said. "But I may start my own chorale in the area for those who want to meet once a week and have a lot of fun."

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