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Amphion gives new face to UMKC choirs

Amphion practicing one of their own arrangements.
Amphion practicing one of their own arrangements.

“There is an element of camaraderie that you can only get from a group of singing guys; we’re a brotherhood,” Amphion president Samuel Green said. “It’s nice to know that after we’re done singing, we’re just a bunch of dudes. We goof off, have inside jokes, and that makes our bond that much stronger.”

Amphion’s acappella fellows make up UMKC’s only all-male vocal ensemble. They’re completely student-run and specialize in contemporary music by artists such as John Mayer and Gavin Degraw, and oftentimes sing custom arrangements by choir members and founder and director Jake Narverud.

“I love that we sing a variety of music. My degree in Choral Music Education somewhat limits the repertoire I’ve been exposed to at the Conservatory,” Green said. “In Amphion, we’re singing stuff that is on the radio right now, and it’s a nice change of pace for me musically.”

Narverud founded Amphion last January with 18 members. Since then, it has expanded to 26 men with majors including political science, journalism, psychology, Spanish, criminal justice, business, theatre, percussion, music education, vocal performance, entrepreneurship and early childhood education.

“Amphion is special in that it is open to students all across campus. We have guys from a dozen different majors and programs,” Green said. “We’re fostering friendships with men we may have not met in any other capacity. This makes our retention rate high, and it always attracts new members every semester.”

Amphion performs in different venues around Kansas City, including singing the national anthem at a Sporting KC soccer game last year, two UMKC basketball games this semester, holiday parties, area high schools and a spring concert. This year the spring concert will be at 5 p.m. April 14 at Union Station and will cost $5. The theme is “Songs of the old west,” and will include older as well as more contemporary tunes.

Narverud graduates this semester with a graduate degree in choral conducting. He also conducts the conservatory ensemble Canticum Novum and teaches at the Starlight Theatre Academy.

The name Amphion stems from the Greek legend of Amphion, son of Zeus, who displayed extraordinary power by playing his magical golden lyre. As a vocal performance undergraduate at Emporia State in Kansas, Narverud sang in the now defunct all-men’s choir, also called Amphion, that served as a strong inspiration for the UMKC ensemble.

“I felt that there was a need for a men’s ensemble on campus that would be available to all UMKC students,” Narverud said. “It provides an opportunity to kind of get away from schoolwork and just kind of hang out once a week.”

For Green, rehearsals are a weekly ritual to which he looks forward. “Amphion is one of the highlights of my week,” he said.

Narverud hopes the rest of the Amphion feels the same way.“I think [they do], I hope so,” Narverud said with a laugh. “They keep coming back, so something’s going right.”

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