College Choir Kicks Off Family Weekend—And An Exciting New Chapter
Published: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, November 3, 2013 19:11
On the evening of October 25, students dressed to the nines made their way to St. Joseph’s Chapel to prepare for a presentation of music and poetry. It was Friday of Parent’s Weekend, and as is tradition, The College Choir performed their fall concert to an audience of over 200 members.
The concert was structured around Walt Whitman’s “Give Me the Splendid, Silent Sun,” a poem that illustrates Whitman’s conflicting desires for a simple, natural existence and an urban life filled with people, places, conflict and adventure: “GIVE me the splendid silent sun, with all his beams full-dazzling; Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard; Give me a field where the unmow’d grass grows…Give me faces and streets! give me these phantoms incessant and endless along the trottoirs! Give me interminable eyes! give me women! give me comrades and lovers by the thousand! Let me see new ones every day! let me hold new ones by the hand every day! Give me such shows! give me the streets of Manhattan!” The speaker turns toward nature in the beginning of the piece—towards solitude, reflection, and away from the busy, active life of Manhattan, and all it represents—only to realize that he doesn’t want to live without the things he’s giving up.
The music selections reflected the same thought progression—the choir began with “Listen to the Lambs,” a piece by G. Schirmer that illustrated the despair and desperation associated with being unfulfilled, as the speaker finds himself in the beginning of the poem. The group, which consists of about 55 mixed voices, continued exploring this theme of time and fulfillment with more traditional pieces like “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” by Robert L. Sanders and “Come to Me, My Love,” by Norman Dello Joio, before introducing more contemporary songs like “21 Guns,” from American Idiot and “Edge of Glory,” by Lady Gaga.
Alumnae joined the choir on the altar to finish the concert with an energetic rendition of “The Songs of Holy Cross” before going downstairs for a reception with the choir and their families.
This is one of the many changes the Choir has decided to try this year, under the new direction of David Harris. Perhaps the most noticeable change thus far has been the switch from black frocks to black dresses—an exciting change for the women of the group. It represents the attention the group is paying not only to their sound but also to their appearance, leaning towards a more contemporary aesthetic.
The audience’s reactions to the choir’s new appearance, and more importantly, new music performed were both positive. Many audience members commented on how technically difficult the selections were, and the remarkable range and depth of emotions expressed in each piece. This emotion was a highlight for the singers, too.
“Something I really liked about the concert was the D-major harmonic improvisation that opened our performance. The emotion of the improvisation built into the first song, and set the tone for the rest of the concert,” said Catherine Morrison, ‘14, an alto in College Choir and Chamber Singers. “Everyone was exhausted by the time we finished the final song, both physically and emotionally. Initially, I don’t think any of us realized how well the musical selections flowed as a whole, especially within the context of Whitman’s poem.”
The time, effort and thought put into this concert is definitely an indication of what is to come during this period of transition and growth for choir at Holy Cross. Singers and audience members alike can expect not only to be entertained but also challenged to think and feel about choral music in new and meaningful ways.
With this concert behind them, the College Choir is in rehearsals for their performance in Brooks Concert Hall on November 14, and beginning to prepare for Lessons and Carols in early December.