Chicago professor travels to Michigan to sing with the BCCC

Dr. Thomas Barrett

When the members of Kellogg Community College’s Branch County Community Chorus take the stage to present Handel’s “Messiah” in December — presenting a portion of the oratorio as a guest ensemble at at concert in Monroe on Dec. 2 and excerpts from the full work in their own performance in Coldwater on Dec. 8 — they’ll be joined by Dr. Thomas Barrett, an associate professor and the department chair of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Chicago.

Barrett was born in Monroe and often served as an altar boy at IHM Motherhouse, where KCC’s Dec. 2 performance will be held in the cathedral. A friend of BCCC member Kathie Bappert, Barrett has sung with the community chorus in the past. He’s traveled to Battle Creek for rehearsals and, according to Dr. Gerald Blanchard, vocal music professor at KCC, has truly displayed “a love of singing and for our choir.”

We caught up with Barrett by email to ask him about his background, his experiences singing, and how he wound up connecting with the BCCC. His answers are below.

Kellogg Community College: Tell us a little bit about your background as it pertains to singing. How long have you been singing seriously, and what sparked your interest?

Thomas Barrett: After singing as a child, in high school and in college, I sang briefly with a chorus in Lansing before relocating to Cleveland. Then, because of work commitments, etc., I stopped singing for several years before learning of the Western Reserve Chorale (in Cleveland) and I sang with that group for three years before relocating to Chicago three years ago. Once in Chicago, and determined to continue singing, I had the good fortune of being invited to join the DePaul Community Chorus and have been singing as a tenor in that chorus for the past three years.

KCC: What are your thoughts on Handel’s “Messiah”? Have you sung it before? Is there anything particularly exciting or challenging about singing during this production as compared to others?

TB: “Messiah” is one of the most well-known and well-loved of all the classical repertoire. Like most who have sung in churches, etc., I have enjoyed the opportunity to sing portions of it on several occasions. (The DePaul Community Chorus sings the “Hallelujah Chorus” each year at three concerts we preform on the DePaul University Campus titled “Christmas at DePaul.”) I look forward to the chance to sing selections from the work with the KCC singers.

KCC: What is your relationship to Kellogg Community College? Have you sung with KCC singers in the past? What interested you in singing with them for these performances?

TB: I have a close friend of many years, Kathie Bappert, who has long sung with the KCC singers in Coldwater. I once sang with members of the chorus at a breast-cancer awareness event in Coldwater. I look forward to this chance to sing with the group for the additional reason that my hometown is Monroe, Mich., and as a youth I was often an acolyte who served mass at IHM Motherhouse, where the concert will be preformed.

KCC: You and your wife have interesting careers as child/adolescent psychoanalysts. Does your interest in music overlap with your day job? In what ways? Does your wife also sing?

TB: While I think my wife has a lovely voice, she insists that she will let me (and others) do the singing while she enjoys attending the performances. While there is no direct connection between my work as a child/adolescent psychoanalyst and music, there are common joyous moments in both our work (when a child or teen makes progress in mastering difficulties) and in the pleasure of singing beautiful music.

KCC: What do you think people should know before coming out to hear “Messiah”? Is there anything people can do before attending that you feel might enhance their experience?

TB: Many who will come will likely have a recording of the piece among their collection of recorded music. I always like to refamiliarize myself with a piece of music before hearing it performed.

Click here for more information about the upcoming Branch County Community Chorus productions of “Messiah” from a post on this blog.

For more information about vocal arts at Kellogg Community College, contact the college’s Arts and Communication offices at 269-565-7859 or visit