LU Choirs ask, “Why do we sing?”

On Saturday, Oct. 6, the Lawrence University Choirs performed their Fall Preview Concert in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Under the direction of Associate Professor and Co-Director of Choral Studies Stephen Sieck, Viking Chorale and Concert Choir performed a program exploring the questions “Why do we sing?” and “What roles does music play in our lives?” The preview concert closed with Cantala, under the direction of Associate Professor of Music and Co-Director of Choral Studies Philip Swan, performing works by contemporary composers including commissions through the American Choral Director’s Association (ACDA).

The program opened with a heartfelt performance by Viking Chorale. Comprised of students from diverse musical backgrounds, Viking Chorale embodies the question “Why do we sing?” with its members who are present out of love for singing and community music making. The opening piece, “Sing My Child” by Canadian composer and educator Sarah Quartel, expressed hope that children will learn to sing, dance, laugh and find peace. In the context of recent political turmoil, this programmatic choice felt especially potent.

The next piece, “I Have Had Singing,” followed without pause and blended very nicely with the previous selection. Viking Chorale closed with a joyful performance of Monteverdi’s “Cantate Domino.” Their performance was even more impressive considering that the choir only meets two hours per week and all of their selections were performed a cappella, except for a tasteful percussion accompaniment by freshman Roland Eckhart on the first piece.

Next on the set list was Concert Choir. They began with a very humorous introduction by seniors Anna Mosoriak and Luke Honeck. The piece, “Musiciens qui chantez a plaisir” or “Musicians Who Sing for Pleasure” by Hubert Waelrant, featured charming and humorous choreography meant to give the audience an inside look at choral rehearsals. A moment of comedic note came when senior David Fisher stole Sieck’s score. After that, “The Music of Stillness” by composer Elaine Hagenberg was tenderly articulated and came to a stunning climax supported by a soaring soprano section.

The highlight of the night was “Musica Animam Tangens” by composer Joshua Shank. In the program notes, Shank wrote that from the moment he read the text he knew it would perform well set to music, because it “expresses something that any musician knows to be true — that music puts us in touch with a higher power, something inexpressible and infinitely beautiful.” The layered textures weaving in and out of each other were hauntingly powerful and a strong reaffirmation of the power of singing as well as the powerful role music can play in one’s life.

Closing the program was a performance by Cantala which moved in a much lighter direction than than the previous choir’s multi-faceted and introspective look at question of why we sing. A highlight was ACDA-commissioned composer Elaine Hagenberg conducting her own work, “I Am the Wind.”

To conclude, the Fall Preview Concert offered a compelling look at the power of the human voice and what music can mean to an individual and a community.