Sunday, January 31, 2016

St. Olaf Choir Concert: Hope for today and for the future

Last night, the St. Olaf Choir sang to a sold out crowd at First Plymouth Church. “Tonight,” said Conductor Anton Armstrong, whose preconcert interview with LincolnCMN can be read here, “this space truly feels like a place of worship.” The concert was more than a concert, in a way, everyone was joined together in a time of prayer—listening and soaking in a “message of hope and light.”

The texts selected varied in language, but certainly all contained the transformative message of love and hope that Armstrong spoke of at the end of the evening. Latin, Hebrew, German, and English were all sung, and the texts ranged from scripture to poetry to liturgical prayers. 

St. Olaf Choir 2016 Winter Tour
courtesy of St. Olaf Choir
The variety of styles made the evening more enjoyable than many choral concerts tend to be when the constant sameness of sound has a numbing quality. From a not-often-heard work by Bach to a Ginastera setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah  to a very unexpected and rousing gospel-style setting of Credo featuring piano and drum set or the beautiful Magnificat of David N. Childs with its ancient text and modern harmonies, the program was designed by a masterful hand. The sound of each new piece was alternately uplifting, exciting, peaceful, beautiful, hopeful, or triumphantly powerful.

Whether the music was written in the 1700s or 2015, the choir was moving with rhythm and emotion flowing through their bodies. An audience can’t help but feel and move with the music when presented with sound and sight that catches them up and draws them along so completely!

In the performance given by these young people, the audience could hear why diction, dynamics, pitch, and the multitude of things a conductor pleads with his choir to do are so important, when done properly, music is created. The details don’t stand out, they are forgotten, and all the listener experiences is simply music—that mysterious art that moves people beyond their own hurts and sorrows and gives them hope. It is clear that whatever transformation may have taken place in the hearts of audience members, the experiences these young college students have from singing in this choir will have a profound impact in who they are as they go out into their various careers. 

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