Let all the earth sing forth! The Loras College Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, and women’s choir Bella Voce joined forces with the string instruments last Saturday, April 18, to perform the most challenging and beautiful concert of the semester.
Bella Voce set the tone with a stunning rendition of “For the Beauty of the Earth” by John Rutter and a Latin piece, “Laetatus Sum,” by Niccola Porpora with a solo by junior Kim Anderson. Senior music major Elizabeth Dickhut directed Bella Voce’s two pieces: her first time student directing in front of a live audience.
“It was wonderfully terrifying, but it was a fantastic experience,” said Dickhut. “I think it will make me a better candidate for future jobs to actually have conducted a real choir and performed in public. There are not too many students who can put that on their resume.”
Chamber Singers was next, first performing the final movement of Stephen Chatman’s Voices of Earth sequence. The wall of sound created by the numerous rounds of voices was directed by senior Emily Gignac. The next in line was the Italian piece, “Preghiera Semplice,” which translates to English as “Simple Prayer,” by A. Eric Heukeshoven. Soft and beautiful, it is an Italian translation of The Prayer of St. Francis.
The music’s lyrics then transformed to the night’s sky with Eriks Ešenvalds’s “Stars,” performed not only with the voices of the choir but also with the rims of water glasses.
“It was my favorite piece,” said Chamber member Jennifer Kasel. “The water glasses created an unparalleled, ethereal sound that was astounding in Christ the King Chapel.”
This section of the concert ended with Józef Swider’s “Cantus Gloriosus,” a hymn of praise with vocal rounds as if sung by a multitude of angels.
The Concert Choir’s first piece was a beautiful song with a beautiful story behind it. The performance of “It Is Well With My Soul” by Craig Courtney was dedicated to the family of first-year Anna Nielsen who lost her brother Erik to an aneurysm this past December. Erik sang the piece in a men’s ensemble during his senior year of high school. The song was later sung at his funeral.
“The song has a great meaning behind it, and it really fits well with the whole situation,” Anna reflected. “The saying, ‘It is well with my soul,’ encompasses my feelings towards the death of my brother, and it is very comforting. The choir did a great job with the song, and I know it touched my parents in a special way.”
The choir then joined forces with the string instruments for the final piece of the night: a half-hour-long collection of movements called The Sunrise Mass. The four movements are named “The Spheres,” “Sunrise,” “The City,” and “Identity and the Ground.” By the end, the choir received a standing ovation from the audience.
“It was a very transcendent experience,” Kasel remembered. “Gjielo’s Sunrise Mass resonated beautifully in Christ the King Chapel. It was breathtaking.”
“My favorite piece was ‘Identity and the Ground’ in Sunrise Mass because it is a beautiful sound that exemplified the unity and hard work that the whole choir puts into everything we do,” said first-year choir member Cheyenne Secor. “Sunrise Mass was a very long and demanding piece that took a lot of hard work and practice, but I think it turned out beautifully. It definitely wasn’t an easy piece to sing, but it is always worth it to see everything come together.”
The audience enjoyed listening just as much as the choir enjoyed performing.
“I’m very impressed with what everyone has been working on,” said senior Cody Arnold. “The biggest joy for me was seeing the choir and the instruments come together to perform something beautiful. No other song gave me chills like Sunrise Mass did. You can tell it’s great music when you get chills.
“I am extremely pleased with the performance,” he continued. “This program contained music that required a mature approach to the interpretation of each work and the physical, mental and spiritual stamina to perform these works.”
Kotowich has had the opportunity to have an inside look at a few of the pieces performed.
“I have been fortunate to meet four of the composers from the concert: John Rutter, Stephen Chatman, Eriks Ešenvalds, and Ola Gjielo,” he explained. “I met both Ešenvalds and Gjielo in February. They were both excited to hear that we would be performing the music. They even sent [the choir] video greetings and offered ideas for the preparation and performance.”
Though the choirs devoted all of their blood, sweat, and tears to this concert, it was a consensus that it was worth it to share the beauty they created in music with the public.
“It was exhausting but rewarding,” Kasel continued. “It was such a great accomplishment to have performed a piece of such magnitude.”