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ISSUE 119 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/28/2006

'Oratorio' concert mesmerizes

By Clare Kennedy
Arts Editor

Friday, April 28, 2006

On Monday night, Chapel Choir and the St. Olaf Orchestra joined forces and brought the audience to its knees in Skoglund Athletic Center with a tripartite Oratorio Concert.

The twin music groups began with a thrilling rendition of Mozart's “Te Deum,” one of the last of his “boyhood” works. During the piece, the choir and the orchestra traded the melodic line back and forth seamlessly, enthralling the audience.

The highlight of the evening was the next piece, “Requiem in D Minor” by Gabriel Faure, which began with a ghostly Kyrie. The sinuous orchestral accompaniment by the violas and cellos lent the piece the rich gloom of a fall night.

In the third movement, the violins began to lift the mood of gorgeous despair.

By the last movement, the piece had fully resolved, and the music mood shifted away from the chill of death to the glory of heaven, a move driven by the organ and harp.

The solos in this performance were beautiful, mostly. In years past, the solos in the Oratorio have been performed by visiting professionals or faculty members, so it was commendable that the groups opted to use their own talent.

There were three soloes in Faure's “Requiem,” beginning with Adam Pearce '07. Pearce had a fine tenor and he performed well.

The next soloist, Suzie Wiedmeyer '07, who also provided a bright spot in the otherwise tuneless production of “Pippin,” was undoubtedly one of the best of the evening. Her pure soprano soared above the ponderous strings with sweet ease.

The last soloist of this piece was Derek Trayling '09, whose strong, deep voice played well over the increasingly hopeful music, only faltering for a moment towards the middle of the solo.

The third portion of the concert was the bombastic “Gloria” by John Rutter, an explosive praise piece in Italian Latin. Only in this piece did the orchestra threaten to overwhelm the choir, with its many unrestrained crescendos. Fortunately, the choir was not drowned out and the frenzied string playing of the faster parts only worked to the groups' advantage.

Overall, the solos were good but for a dark moment when senior Audrey Duncan's voice cracked and she missed a note. She was the lead in a trio, with Eva Nelson '06 and Heidi Henriksen '07, that otherwise performed remarkably well. To be fair, Duncan's voice was very pretty, and she managed to stretch beyond her normal vocal range without any major problem.

“I didn't even know she was a soprano, she sang alto in all of our conducting classes,” said a friend who had joined me for the show.

In the final analysis, the choir and the orchestra artfully tackled a challenging program and gave the crowd in the stands a memorable performance.

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