Conductor Christopher Aspaas was inspired by the idea of "Living Water" when he and his wife were planning the baptism of their daughter, Liv.
"As the summer months rolled on and the earth in southern Minnesota hardened from the drought, finally to be drenched with waters that would not cease, the idea of water, and its power in our lives, became even more important," Aspaas said. "I hope that these words and songs will bring comfort to those in the storm of life and peace to all our hearts this evening."
Congregational song and solos complimented anthems and hymn arrangements. The program included four main ideas for reflection: thirst, rain, flood and healing promise.
Vespers has been a St. Olaf Chapel Choir tradition for many years, appearing in a variety of forms. In the past, Chapel Choir worked with the Philharmonic Orchestra for this event and would perform a larger proportion of multi-movement works.
The traditional fall event for Chapel Choir used a new format last Sunday. The evening was inspired by a "lesson and carols" template incorporating poetry, prose and scripture to guide the listener through the theme, "Passages: Moments of Transformation."
"Since my arrival three years ago, I have been working to find the right balance of worship and performance for this event," Aspaas said. "I wanted those in attendance last night to take a journey through word, song and liturgy that would leave them refreshed, and perhaps a bit more prepared to handle life's storms and trials. I believe that we came really quite close with this program. I am continually amazed at what St. Olaf students accomplish every day!"
Chapel Choir members were also very pleased with the performance experience.
"The Vespers Concert was a very cleansing experience for me," Eric Sayre '10 said. "I had arrived on campus from being on tour with the St. Olaf Band for nine days about 30 minutes before the concert started. I was exhausted from tour and quite nervous about the concert to come. But Dr. Apsaas came up with his ever-soothing smile and started the first piece with so much pride and trust in us that I immediately became calm."
Choir members were also able to connect with concert's theme on a personal level. "For me, music is a form of spirituality, so this Vespers service was especially meaningful," Katie Swanson '09 said. "When the music is performed in a worship setting rather than a concert, the emphasis is more toward what we are sharing rather than what we are performing. I like that."
"It was a wonderful experience we got to share with a community we all care a lot about - our friends, family and each other," Abby Hughes '08 said. "It was a much needed centering moment as the semester becomes more and more hectic.
"My favorite song was the last song performed, 'Nunc Dimittis,'" Swanson said. "We sang it with the Viking Chorus and the combination of the two choirs and organ was extremely powerful."
Chapel Choir members love their ensemble for many reasons. "Not only is this group amazingly talented and passionate but they are also profoundly dedicated to the sense of community that connects everyone," Swanson said. "Dr. Aspaas is an integral part of the group; he always finds a way to get us moving, laughing, and making beautiful music."
In agreement, Tyler Barth '08 said, "I like chapel choir because I love Dr. Aspaas. It is a great way to be involved in the St Olaf music problem while leaving time for other activities."