Lawrence choirs give a taste of what is to come

Kristi Ruff

The Fall Choir Preview Concert took place Friday, Oct. 9 in the chapel. The Lawrence community got its first taste of the vocal talent present this year on campus, and Paul Nesheim made his debut as interim conductor of Viking Chorale and Concert Choir.
The Viking Chorale opened the concert with two distinct pieces: Felix Mendelssohn’s “There Shall a Star Come Out from Jacob” and Hall Johnson’s “Ain’t Got Time to Die.”
“There Shall a Star” is the chorus from an unfinished oratorio by Mendelssohn called “Christus,” from which there is little existing material. The members of Viking Chorale presented the chorus in a stunning fashion, performing it with grace and spirit.
Viking Chorale sang “Ain’t Got Time to Die” in the completely contrasting style of an African-American spiritual. The swing beat and moderate tempo gave it a very upbeat feel, and the stirring performance exuded energy, but sophomore bass Mike Pope’s charismatic solo was the final touch that created the perfect finale.
Cantala, the Lawrence University women’s choir, opened with “No. 28. Trio of Angels: Lift Thine Eyes” from another Mendelssohn oratorio called “Elijah.” The lovely performance was a beautiful exhibition showcasing the group’s ability to blend and balance each other’s voices. The chapel was an especially great venue for this piece, as it allowed the women to create the impression of a cascade of voices that rang throughout the hall.
Three movements from “Missa Brevis” by Ramona Luengen followed the Mendelssohn. These movements, “Kyrie,” “Sanctus,” and “Agnus Dei,” were gorgeous as well – they were a modern incarnation of the short masses done by more classical composers. The obscure, unique work gave the Cantala singers the opportunity to show off their ability to interpret and perform the piece’s dissonant and contemporary harmonies with refined elegance.
Cantala’s final piece, “i thank you God” by Gwyneth Walker, was a lush wash of sound full of dramatic chord changes and intensely rousing harmonies. The long, drawn out ending to the song not only accentuated an already strong piece, but also provided a stunning conclusion to Cantala’s dazzling performance.
Concert Choir adhered to the other choirs’ example, beginning its performance with a Mendelssohn piece titled “Heilig.” The piece was delightful, although by this point in the performance the previous pieces were so similar in style and timbre that the effect was perhaps not as profound as it could have been.
Bach’s “Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230” was a nice change of pace. While the baroque sound remained present, the faster tempo and more frequent juxtaposition of low and high registers allowed the ensemble to effectively communicate the energy of the song.
Closing with Debussy’s “Yver, vous n’estes qu’un villain” and Ben Allaway’s “Freedom Come” from “Bandari: Inside These Walls,” Concert Choir’s performance was truly outstanding.
Soloists Rachel Marschke, Jaimie Lowe, Gregory Peterson and Zachary Olson in the Debussy and Clare Bohrer, Alexandra Aber, Derrell Acon, Evan Bravos and Abby Fisher on percussion in “Freedom Come” all performed exceptionally well and concluded the truly unforgettable show with energy and grace.
The next performance by Lawrence’s choirs will take place Nov. 13 and will feature combined choirs along with orchestra accompaniment. This combination of LU’s impressive variety of musical talent is sure to impress.

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