LSO and choirs collaborate for night of 20th century music

Kristina Riemer

The Lawrence Symphony Orchestra and the three Lawrence choirs, Concert Choir, Cantala and Viking Chorale, performed a dual concert last Friday night in the chapel.
The ensembles performed three pieces, all of which were composed in the 20th century. Phillip Swan, interim director of choral studies, conducted the first and last pieces, while the middle piece was conducted by David Becker, director of orchestral studies.
LSO and the choirs began with “Te Deum,” a Christian hymn set to music by composer Arvo P„rt. Each of the three choirs was placed in a different location in the balcony, filling the room with music from all corners. The orchestra consisted of strings, piano and recorded wind harp.
The orchestra initiated the piece with an electronic drone that developed out of silence and the choir soon added the hymn text to this. This call-and-response was the dominant format of the piece, with the orchestra interjecting more frequently with increasingly developed interludes.
The Latin text, which expressed reverent praise to God, contrasted the richly ominous mood of the piece to create moments of both eerie foreboding and uplifting joy throughout the performance.
Ottorino Respighi’s “Fontane di Roma” was the second piece of the night, and the symphony orchestra performed it without the choirs. Respighi intended for “Fontane di Roma” to be a lively depiction of four fountains in Rome, with one movement dedicated to each fountain.
The orchestra provided an enjoyable interpretation of Respighi’s vision. The setting for each movement was described briefly in the program and the musicians expressed these scenes quite eloquently.
The performance felt very organic and lively, just as I imagine scenes of Roman fountains would be. I could almost see the picturesque dawn of the first movement, and the arrival of Neptune in the third.
The choirs and the symphony orchestra concluded the program with “Mid-Winter Songs,” a piece by composer Morten Lauridsen. Lauridsen based the piece on five works by poet Robert Graves, all thematically related to winter.
While the piece was pleasant, the movements felt short and incomplete. The last few notes of “Mid-Winter Songs” did not feel like the closing moments of a concert, and I left the chapel unsatisfied and wanting more.
The choirs and the symphony orchestra each have one concert remaining in the 2009-2010 season. Concert Choir, Cantala and Viking Chorale will be performing Friday May 28 at 8 p.m. in the chapel, while the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra hold their last concert the following night, Saturday May 29, also at 8 p.m. in the chapel.