MC small vocal ensemble Off Kilter celebrating 10 years

MC small vocal ensemble Off Kilter celebrating 10 years

Oct. 10, 2012
Contact: Chloe Kennedy, News and New Media Writer

In 2002, a group of Maryville College music majors expressed interest in singing in a small vocal ensemble. A group of eight singers was formed, and Josh Silva-Noah ’02 named it “Off Kilter.” The mother of Rennie Salata ’05 made official uniforms – kilts – for the singers.

Ten years later, the Maryville College vocal ensemble, under the direction of Coordinator of Choral Music Stacey Wilner, is still going strong. Each year’s ensemble boasts eight to 12 talented singers, and although the audition process is now much more rigorous, “the spirit of the first Off Kilter is very similar to that of the current group,” Wilner said.

To celebrate the ensemble’s 10th anniversary, 24 Off Kilter alumni will return to campus to perform during Homecoming on Oct. 20. The Off Kilter Reunion Choir, directed by Wilner and organized by Joa Jacks Woods ‘08, will perform at 11 a.m. on the plaza of the Clayton Center for the Arts.

Wilner said Off Kilter has developed “a bit of a following” in the Maryville College community.

“There have been several times in which I have been approached by complete strangers who ask if I am the director for ‘the Kilters,’” Wilner said. “They ask about the members, referring to them as ‘the red headed guy’ (William McCurdy ’07); or ‘the tall blonde guy’ (Brian Phelps ’07); or ‘the petite girl with the big voice’ (Kaitie Fernandez ’09). The students tell me similar stories of people recognizing them as members of Off Kilter.”

The male singers in the group still wear kilts during performances, although they now wear the College’s official tartan. As the group developed and came to represent Maryville College at many college and community functions, the College purchased kilts made out of the Maryville College tartan. During the Maryville College Concert Choir’s first choir tour to Scotland in 2008, official belts and sporrans were purchased for the men.

Wilner said that because of the small size of the ensemble, the students in Off Kilter develop a very close connection to each other – musically, as well as personally.

“Many of them have maintained these relationships over the years and still come back to visit, including a group of eight that came by my house for dinner this summer,” Wilner said. “All are very successful individuals, many having just completed master of arts, doctor of musical arts or Ph.D. programs – even one Fulbright Scholar; all are young professionals in their own right. It is my hope that the lessons they learned while in both choral ensembles at MC contributed positively to their skills at negotiating life’s challenges.”

The Music Medley concert is a Homecoming tradition that includes a variety of musical styles sung by Maryville College students and alumni. The concert, which is held on the Clayton Center Plaza, will begin at 10 a.m. with a performance by Maryville College’s gospel choir, Voices of Praise, directed by Larry Ervin.

At 11 a.m., the Maryville College Alumni Choir, directed by Louise Ogden Wyman ‘57, will perform. Featured selections include former MC choir director Harry Harter’s “The Twenty-Third Psalm,” also known as “Crimond.” The group will join the Maryville College Concert Choir to sing “Salvation is Created” by Pavel Tschesnokoff and “The Lutkin Benediction” by Peter Lutkin.

The Off Kilter Reunion Choir will perform several selections, including “Wanting Memories” by Ysaye Barnwell and “Precious Memories” by Thomas Dorsey.

The Maryville College choral groups, directed by Wilner, will also perform. Featured selections for the Maryville College Concert Choir include “Witness” by Jack Halloran and “Prayer of the Children” by Kurt Bestor. The College’s newest small ensembles, the Lads and Lassies, will traditional Scottish folk songs “Will Ye Go Lassies” and “In the Gloamin.” Off Kilter will sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Bottom of the River,” a current hit by the Southern band Delta Rae.

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,197.