For Singing Hoosiers director Chris Albanese, putting on concerts goes back to his childhood.
During the annual Singing Hoosiers holiday performance, “Chimes of Christmas,” on Dec. 2, he told the audience holiday stories from his childhood. As a child, he would organize Christmas concerts with his siblings and cousins every year, which would inevitably go too long and cause his dad to fall asleep. Albanese chuckled as he recounted how his dad would tell him the performance was good, but “a little long.”
Now, Albanese gets to put on one of the most popular Christmas concerts at IU.
“I think people will be entertained by it,” he said. “It reflects the diversity of the community.”
The show featured a wide range of music, from gospel, to traditional Spanish and Indigenous music, to celebrations of Hanukkah. Early in the performance, the group performed “Al Hanisim” and later, the Jewish Acapella group Hooshir performed “Hanukkah in Santa Monica,” which had the audience laughing at its many puns. Albanese said he gets song ideas from going to conferences and seeing the newest songs being performed, as well as directly from the students themselves.
“The Singing Hoosiers have always had a reputation for being a group that performs different styles of music,” he said. “I was really ecstatic to get the opportunity to explore these vocal styles and do innovative things with them, to make music at a whole new level with students here at the Jacobs school.”
Albanese also said he was attracted to the job of directing the Singing Hoosiers because of the history and tradition it represents.
Albanese said the Singing Hoosiers were founded in 1950 when two separate IU choruses, the Men’s Concert Choir and the women’s Indiana University Belles, came together to sing the National Anthem at a basketball game. According to legend, the announcer suggested since the football team was called the “Fighting Hoosiers” and the basketball team was called the “Hurrying Hoosiers,” the new choir should be called the Singing Hoosiers. The name stuck, and the Singing Hoosiers have been performing ever since.
“This show has been a Bloomington staple for over 60 years now,” IU Auditorium Executive Director Maria Talbert said.
She said the show has been performed on the IU Auditorium stage since the 1960s and has continued nearly uninterrupted since.
“For me, it’s really special because I have firsthand experience seeing how meaningful that show is for young people in particular, for families to enjoy together and for our community to be together during this time of the year,” Talbert said.
Talbert said “Chimes of Christmas” has become a tradition in her family, and that her daughter, who is now 16, would often attend the show or watch the Singing Hoosiers rehearse.
“I remember when she was small and just so excited about the holiday time and Christmas coming up,” Talbert said. “She was so mesmerized by the large group of students performing on our stage, how beautiful they sounded, how fun and exciting their choreography was.”
Families continue to make “Chimes of Christmas” a holiday tradition, as Bloomington resident Rachel Landis brought her three children to the show. She said she wanted them to experience the diversity the community had.
“I wanted the kids to be exposed to all kinds of music and instruments and also, just, that they could see any type of person could be doing that kind of thing on the stage,” she said.
Throughout the show, Singing Hoosiers members shared their favorite holiday memories, from baking latkes to going to a “Chill Night” in southern California expecting cold weather and snow, only to find it 70 degrees and the snow made of soap.
No matter what story they were telling or song they were singing, however, the Singing Hoosiers made one thing clear: the holidays are time for family to draw even closer, and for many, that means “Chimes of Christmas.”