COMING HOME: The Same Stream, a choir of alumni from Westminster Choir College, will perform on the Princeton campus in honor of late composer Roger Ames, premiering his final compositions. The choir is pictured here at Oxford University.
By Anne Levin
For alumni of Westminster Choir College, Bristol Chapel is home. So it makes sense that The Same Stream, a choir made up of Westminster graduates from a range of years, has chosen the stately building at the former home of the famed choral academy as the culminating venue of a three-concert series.
Members of the Philadelphia-based choir, all of whom sung at Westminster under conductor and professor James Jordan, will perform a concert led by Jordan on Saturday, August 6. ROGER AMES: A Legacy Concert Series is in honor of composer Roger Ames, who died last January from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A portion of the proceeds from the Princeton concert, which follows appearances in Philadelphia and on Long Island, will be donated to the ALS Association.
“It’s going to be really nostalgic for everyone,” said Alex Meakem, executive director of the choir and a 2018 Westminster graduate. “We’ve all sung in Bristol Chapel on multiple occasions. It will be great to be back in a place that feels like home, and the fact that we are premiering a piece by Roger Ames makes it really special.”
The choir was formed seven years ago “out of a feeling of wanting to sing together again,” said Meakem. “The idea was that no matter what year you graduated, if you had sung with James Jordan, you could all come together again. And it works, because we all understand his language. We understand how he works. It is really musical magic.”
The Grammy-nominated Jordan conducts Westminster Schola Cantorum and the Westminster Choir. He is also director of the Westminster Conducting Institute and co-director of the Choral Institute at Oxford.
Through recordings and performances, The Same Stream showcases music of living composers. In addition to Ames, the list includes Paul Mealor, Patrick Hawes, and Thomas LaVoy. There are five recordings available now on major streaming platforms. A Time for Healing: The Music of Roger Ames will be released next month.
Members of the choir span several years; even generations. “We have one father and son who have come all the way from Florida for this. It’s that special,” said Meakem. “There are people who sang in James Jordan’s first chapel choir, and people from more recent classes.”
“The whole point of this concert series is to honor Roger Ames, who was a great friend of James Jordan,” said Meakem. “He had written quite a few pieces for different ensembles at Westminster. Last year, he was diagnosed with ALS. The two of them had been plotting a recording for some time, and realized they didn’t have much time. So, they bumped it up and got it done last summer.”
The piece is “poetry written about the pandemic, during the pandemic,” Meakem continued. “It speaks to everything that his style stands for. It is simply beautiful, even in this dark time. Despite the pain and suffering that people were, and are still, feeling, this set of songs offers a really nice message of hope, community, and love.”
The Westminster campus has been relatively quiet since most operations were moved to Rider University in Lawrence Township in the fall of 2020 (Rider and Westminster merged in 1992; Rider has been trying to sell the Princeton campus since 2017. Lawsuits challenging the move are not yet resolved). Returning to Bristol Chapel is bittersweet for members of the choir.
“The whole situation is upsetting to hear about, of course,” said Meakem. “But I would say that we are doing our best to remain hopeful. Dr. Jordan is still teaching there. The fact that we are able to come together as a choir, performing and doing recordings, is testament to the power of the Westminster community. The way the alumni are able to continue the mission of the school, and hold their own students to a high standard, is really what Westminster is about.”
The Same Stream performs Saturday, August 6 at 7 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the Westminster campus, 101 Walnut Lane. Tickets are $20 ($10 for students and seniors). Purchase at thesamestreamchoir.com.