Lawrence choirs to perform music from around the world

Keilholz, Zachary

Lawrence students will receive a substantial dose of culture at the ninth annual “Around the World” choir concert Fri., May 25.
The concert, featuring the Viking Chorale and Concert Choir, directed by Richard Bjella, and Cantala, the women’s choir directed by Phillip Swan, will be a 90-minute-long cultural showcase.
The three choirs, totaling about 170 students, will provide a selection of music from West Africa, Kenya, Russia, France, the Philippines, China, Inner Mongolia, the Netherlands, Nova Scotia, Canada and the United States.
Besides being great works of music, all of the pieces are paired with equally interesting background stories of how the pieces came to be, as well as stories told by the music itself.
One of the pieces will create the effect of a cathedral experience, when one soprano section is heard echoing another about half a second later. Another piece, unavailable in the United States, was actually obtained through an exchange of e-mails between Bjella and a friend in the Philippines.
The choirs will sing stories of the sea of outer space, the sounds of nature, the process of adding secret ingredients to tea to make coughs go away, and various other tales.
The nontraditional music provides a welcome change to chorus members, but the worldly pieces have proved to be a learning process for singers and conductors alike.
On just about every piece, the chorus is asked to change their voices and to take on a different tonal characteristic.
In addition to the differences in musical style, other issues arise when singing world music, specifically the issue of foreign languages.
To assist with the foreign languages, Bjella and Swan employed the help of Lecturer in Music Peter Marsh, Professor of Russian Richard Yatzeck, freshman Elliott Cairns, and Hiram H. Jones Professor of Classics Daniel Taylor.
“Yatzeck is one wise, wise man,” remarked sophomore Sveinn Sigurdsson.
Though the languages, chorus members and music are different this year, the goals of the concert remain the same as in years past.
“It’s very dangerous for us to get only United States or Western European-centered. To consider the fact that great things are happening musically, artistically and culturally around the world is critical,” said Bjella.
The concert provides a means for recognizing that the United States is merely one of nearly 200 countries in the world. Performing worldly pieces not only gives choir members a chance to expand their limits as musicians, but it also brings pieces of uncommon culture to the Lawrence community.
The goal of the Lawrence choirs is not to duplicate the cultures, but rather to provide a close representation of the choirs in these cultures.
Adding a new twist to this year’s concert, flags from the respective countries of the pieces will be set up in front of the stage.
In most cases, there will be student representatives from these countries who will walk the flags in before the concert.
The chorus members and directors hope the audience will come away from the concert with an inconceivable variety of colors and spectrums.
The concert will begin at 8 p.m. Friday in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.