Three local men will be participating in the Illumni Men’s Chorale Holiday Concerts this weekend on Saturday at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Mercer Island and on Sunday at Lagerquist Hall on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. Both shows begin at 7:30 p.m. and are presented free of charge.
The name Illumni (pronounced Ih-loom-nee) comes from a combination of the words illuminate and alumni, representing the fact that many of the members began singing together as music students at PLU or in other ensembles around the Pacific Northwest. The age range of the group spans from current college students to members in their 60s.
Illumni members Gregg Golliet, Justin Ferris, and Nick Pharris all reside within Thurston County yet have chosen to make the weekly trek to Kent to sing with the select ensemble. Members come from as far as Bellingham and Poulsbo and have a wide variety of musical backgrounds. They count among their ranks a number of professional musicians and educators as well as skilled amateurs.
Golliet is a fire fighter, yet he studied music in college. Although he eventually changed his major to philosophy, Ferris started out as a music major in college. He has spent the past few years pursuing his musical passion and, like many other members of Illumni has contributed to a number of groups around the greater Puget Sound area. “It seems like our members and leadership have our fingers in a disproportionate amount of pies, as it were, for as small as Illumni is. Just off the top of my head I can think of ten other groups we are associated with as well as having multiple members involved in the Greater Seattle Choral Consortium,” says Ferris. He himself has sung with the Bellevue Opera, Kitsap Opera, Stage Door Productions, Puget Sound Concert Opera and the Bremerton Symphony Concert Chorale.
Nick Pharris, a charter member of the group talked about how the two year old group has already carved out a niche and a name for itself in the Pacific Northwest music scene. “When you spend six hours every week rehearsing with someone, as many of us did together back at PLU, you really learn the ins and outs of that person’s voice and how to blend well with it. Even though we’ve been out of school for years at this point, that instinct is still there, and I think that comes through in our sound.” Pharris has sung off and on with Olympia’s own Masterworks Chorale Ensemble.
Founded by Christopher McCafferty in 2009, Illumni men’s chorale has already managed to rack up an impressive resume of accomplishments including recording its first CD “Lux Spiritu,” recording background tracks for a movie and a soon to be released pop song, and auditioning for America’s Got Talent. Although they brought down the house and received three enthusiastic yes votes when they performed in front of the judges earlier this year at Key Arena, the group was not ultimately featured on the show.
The group also makes it a point to commission new works and has premiered thirteen pieces of original music and new arrangements. They are proud to have within their ranks a number of accomplished composers and arrangers. The holiday concert will mark the world premier of member Edwin Wendler’s piece,”Ye mei haChanukkah, ” commissioned by Illumni.
In the spirit of the season, Illumni Men’s Chorale has made it a point to offer their holiday shows free to the public. They encourage all who enjoy music to attend.