This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Kim Patterson.
When Dr. Robert H. Young came to Baylor in 1962 as chairman of the church music department, he brought with him an idea from the University of Southern California, where he had recently completed
his doctorate. Young wanted to recreate at Baylor the 16-member choral ensemble at USC called the Chamber Singers, and he debuted the new group in Roxy Grove Hall:
"In 1962, we did that very first program all in Music Hour. It was unique in that I used a technique that Dr. Hirt had used in Southern California of a curved table on the stage with a velvet cloth on it and candelabra and some trimmings, so to speak, and the women—the eight women sitting around the curved table with the eight men standing right back of them and, as it were, reading over their shoulder with the music on the table, you see. Well, that was unique for us here. No one had seen anything like that before. So we used that all the while until we went over to Armstrong Browning, and then it wasn't conducive to that anymore because of the space requirements for setting up the tables and doing all of that. And we needed the space we had in the Foyer of Meditation for the audience. And then that wasn't necessary any longer anyway. We had those steps there in the Foyer of Meditation, and so we went to that formation after that. But those first several years we used that table and that atmosphere."
The Armstrong Browning Library as a venue for the Chamber Singers was the suggestion of then-Baylor music student Robert A. Reid around the fall of 1967:
"Robert was doing a research project on the Brownings, and he came to me and asked me if we had ever considered singing over in the Foyer of Meditation. And I said, ‘No, but it sounds interesting, come to think of it.' And so we already had our program planned for Roxy Grove Hall, and we decided to do the first half of it, up to intermission, in Roxy Grove, make an announcement to the folks that we would go right across the street to Armstrong Browning, and although we didn't have chairs set up or anything of that sort, we would sing there the remainder of the program. Well, we did that, and there was an aura of wonder about it."
Interviewer: "I guess so."
"It was really amazing because we had never heard ourselves in there before, and the folks that came there were glad to stand for that remaining half of the program. That was it. We never went back to Roxy Grove or any other place, unless we were doing something special that required us to be elsewhere. But that became our performing home."
Over the years, the Chamber Singers have performed many of Dr. Young's compositions, and the ensemble continues to hold concerts in the Armstrong Browning Library. After Young retired in 1993, Dr. Donald Bailey and most recently Dr. Alan Raines followed as conductors of the ensemble.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM, Waco's NPR. For more information about this program or the Institute for Oral History, visit us at baylor.edu/livingstories.
Search our collection of full transcripts available online.