Choirs to perform last regular concert of the season

Chris Swade

The Lawrence University Chorale, Women’s Choir, and Concert Choir, under the direction of Professors Richard Bjella and David Erb, will present what will be the last exclusively choral concert of the season on Saturday, April 20 at 8:00 pm in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The theme of the program is “With a Poet’s Touch,” since all the pieces being performed are settings of poetry to music. Both conductors found the task of selecting pieces for this concert relatively easy as a great deal of the choral repertoire utilizes poetry as the text. The Women’s Choir (directed by Erb) will open up Part I of the concert with “Magnificat de Fourviere” by contemporary French composer Roger Calmel, a setting of a poem by Luke. Bjella will accompany the Women’s Choir on this piece on the organ.

The second part of the concert features three pieces performed by the Concert Choir, under the direction of Bjella. The first piece is “Twelfth Night” by Samuel Barber, poetry by Laurie Lane. According to Bjella, this piece is an attempt to create the “images of light and darkness, birth and death, as well as reflecting the poet’s struggles with the realities of life after his experience in observing the Spanish-American War.” The Concert Choir portion of the concert also features Frank Martin’s rendition of “Sanctus” from his Mass, with text from Isaiah, and “I thank you God for most this amazing day” by Eric Whitacre, poetry by e. e. cummings.

The third part of the concert will be presented by the Chorale, also under the direction of Bjella. The first of three pieces they will perform is a setting of John McRae’s World War I poem, “In Flander’s Field,” by composer Derek Healey. This piece features Anna Stirr on recorder. The second piece is Pablo Casal’s setting of “O Vos Omnes,” a biblical work from the prophet Jeremiah. This music reflects the poet’s witnessing of the devastation of Jerusalem. To finish the third part of the concert, Chorale will perform Jeffrey Van’s setting of the Walt Whitman poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” This piece features Elizabeth Staunder on guitar and “displays an interesting array of colors,” according to Bjella.

At this point in the concert, the combined choirs will perform Joseph Flummerfelt’s arrangement of the classic Irish tune, “Danny Boy.” It is interesting to note that “the tune was composed (roughly) in 1650, some 250 years before the text/poem was written in 1912.”

After a brief intermission, Part IV of the concert will be given by the Women’s Choir as they perform “The Harmony of Morning” by 20th Century composer Elliott Carter, poetry by Mark van Doren. This piece also features a chamber orchestra accompaniment.

The Concert Choir will then retake the stage as they perform “Fern Hill” by John Corigliano, poetry by Dylan Thomas. The Concert Choir will be assisted by a chamber orchestra for this piece. Professor Karen Leigh-Post is the featured mezzo-soprano soloist in this piece.

The final piece on the program is Beethoven’s “Fantasie in c moll,” with poetry by Christoff Kuffner. This piece features the combined choirs and will be conducted by Erb. The piece begins with a “fantasy” that was originally “improvised for the premiere performance by Beethoven and later written down,” according to Erb. The piano part, including the “fantasy” section of this piece, will be performed by Professor Anthony Padilla. The piece also features a number of student soloists.

In addition to the wonderful music, the concert will also feature the raffling off of a $100 gift certificate donated by Conkey’s Bookstore as a door prize. Each audience member will receive a ticket as he or she enters the chapel. The drawing will be held later in the program.

The only other remaining performance by the LU choirs will be the performance of the Mozart “Mass in C Minor” on Saturday, June 1 in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel at 8:00 pm. Tickets are required for that performance and are available from the LU Box Office, located in just inside the front entrance to Brokaw Hall.