CHoosE will celebrate its 21st year concert in the fall of 2015! It’s been a long road, but CHoosE is still going strong – God has continued to bless the group with talented members.
Here’s an account of how CHoosE grew into what it is today.
In the spring of 1995, Todd Michael and Vitaly Voinov began the task of assembling a Christian a cappella group at UVA. Todd had spent his first two years of college at Rutgers University, and had been involved with First Light, a group there. Vitaly was heavily involved with Jubilate, a Christian choir at UVA, and knew several people who would be interested in singing Christian a cappella. Togther they began contacting people who might be interested and encouraging them to pray over the summer about their involvement with the soon to be formed group.
In the beginning of the fall semester, 1995, fliers were posted to announce the first organizational meeting for CHoosE, Christian ‘Hoos Exalt, a name which had taken significantly more time to come up with than any other single part of the summer planning time. After several organizational meetings, it was decided to set a practice time and stick with it, the thought being that those who really wanted to do this would make time for it. When enough people showed up to the first practice to make a decent sized group, we were off and running.
While the original group had a fair amount of musical talent, Todd was the only one who had ever been in a group like this before, and he had no experience with doing arrangements. The first thing we had to do, then, was simply learn how to learn music and to sing together as an acappella group. Our first “arrangement” consisted of sitting around the CD player and trying to pick out parts to Jars of Clay’s “Faith Like A Child.” It was not written down, and took us about a month just to learn it well enough to sing through it.
Now that we could sing together, we needed to figure out what to wear. Many ideas were proposed (including blue and orange sweater vests, robes, and sashes!), and after much debate we decided on colors – black for our sin, red for Christ’s blood, and white for the way God sees us through Jesus. We finished the spring semester with an appearance at a local church (Christ Community Church) during a concert of local Christian musicians. This was as close as we dared come to actually singing on grounds (campus, for all you non-UVA readers) that semester.
We began the fall of ’96 with a single goal in mind – to put on a concert. Practice was increased to 4 1/2 hours a week, which, at that time, seemed like a lot. Probably the biggest issue we faced, though, was not related to singing at all – it was money, or rather, a lack thereof. Concerts are, after all, somewhat expensive to put on, even when the auditorium is free. Sound equipment, fliers, programs – they all add up to a sum larger than our account contained. So we faced the question of whether to charge admission for the concert. It was a touchy issue, with strong feelings on both sides. After a lot of discussion and prayer, we narrowly decided to make the concert free. Since then, we have often been asked why we don’t charge, and told that most people would be perfectly willing to pay money to hear us. For us, it is a question of trusting God to provide for us. It may be true that we would not lose much of our audience by charging admission, but the ones who would not come are the very people we most want to sing to. Our decision was to put ministry first, and trust that God would provide everything else. And, in every way, He has.