Choirs to present life “Through the Looking Glass

Amelia Perron

The Lawrence choirs will be performing in the comfort of their home stage Friday for the last time before venturing to Omaha, Neb. for the North Central ACDA Convention on March 3.
No promises about the music being comforting, though – the title of the program, “Through the Looking Glass,” doesn’t mean rose-tinted glasses.
Choir director Rick Bjella explained the unifying theme of the concert. “The idea is looking at life in its fullest form. Or you could think of it as a reflection from past lives.”
The Lawrence Chorale will be singing music by Brahms – movements from “Ziguenerlieder” – and Sarah Hopkins’ “Past Life Melodies.” “There are dramatically disparate emotions expressed in these pieces,” Bjella remarked.
After the Chorale, the Concert Choir and Women’s Choir will proceed with music they will be performing in Omaha. “It’s really an incredibly contrasting program,” said Bjella. “We’ve got music from the 1400s, to a piece that was written last fall that we’ll be premiering in Omaha.”
The program will include early works like Johannes Ciconia’s “Venecie mundi splendor / Michael qui Steno domus,” and 2005’s “Dances to Life” by Mack Wilberg. The variety should be a good showcase for both this week’s concert and the upcoming festival.
Being accepted to the festival is an impressive achievement – among 16 choirs representing the six states of the North Central division, both the Women’s Choir and the Concert Choir will represent Lawrence.
The “centerpiece” of the program, according to Bjella, is Veljo Tormis’ “Raua Needmine.” The text, in Estonian, is a protest against man’s use of iron. According to the program notes, “Everything created by man may turn against himself if he starts using his creation without attention to ethics. The evil hidden in iron will turn against the man through the man himself; if people will not listen to the voice of reason, iron may destroy everybody.”
Set to music, it becomes, as Bjella put it, “nine-and-a-half minutes of really intensive singing and almost violent actions.” The piece, which the Concert Choir performed earlier in the year, will be sung from memory to accommodate the actions suggested in the score.
“This isn’t some show choir thing,” said sophomore Grant Anderson. “They’re more like fright gestures. It really affects the emotions.” Besides the challenges of memorizing 72 pages of Estonian, Anderson said there are also “lots of vocal techniques you don’t usually hear. It’s going to be a spectacle.”
The Women’s Choir will also have an eclectic program, including sacred works ranging from renaissance to contemporary, and a number of works representing diverse cultures. Highlighting a more upbeat take on life are works such as by Andrew Rindfleisch, based on a poem by Emily Dickinson.
Freshman Dani Simandl commented on the piece. “It captures what Emily wrote with this very cool sound,” Simandl said. “The music put to her words is very upbeat and full of life.”
Aside from preparing for a concert and a festival, many singers are recovering from the intense scheduling required to put on Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”
“It’s been challenging with the opera as far as memorization and staying healthy,” said sophomore Emily Fink. “Having a lot of repertoire, we have been taking baby steps on memorization along the way to be prepared.”
Bjella agreed that it has been challenging. “No doubt about that. But they’re troopers. I’m looking forward to the concert with great anticipation.