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ISSUE 121 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/18/2008

Cantorei Choir returns home for reflections, alleluias

By Meg Granum
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 18, 2008

Glorious choruses of "Alleluia" resounded through Boe Memorial Chapel on Monday evening as the St. Olaf Cantorei presented their home concert after returning to campus from their weekend tour. For many choirs, the final concert in a series is often one in which effort is half-hearted and the music mediocre. This was clearly not the case for Cantorei.

"There's always something magical about singing at home," Kenny Qian, '08 said. "Our two concerts on tour were good, but once we sang our home concert, it seemed like our exhaustion all washed away, and as a choir, we really gave our entire beings to the music. I think other choir members would agree that our home concert was the most spiritually engaging."

The theme of "alleluia" was pronounced throughout the program, which blurred the line between performance and worship service. The choir began the program from the back chancel, with the hymn anthem, "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," in which the celestial sound set the tone for what was to be a truly stellar and intimate performance.

A true testament to the choir's religious background, the processional from the balcony to the front of the sanctuary served to symbolize aspects of religion for some audience members. Members of Cantorei walked down the side aisles singing "alleluia" at different pitches and in different rhythms, which when combined proclaimed a message of praise. "My favorite moment of the concert was the processional. I was struck because I was reminded of the journey from Lent into the Easter season, and this swarm of ethereal sound acted as an allegorical transition," Russell Draeger '11 said.

In between sections of the concert were spoken reflections, which helped to explain the relationship of the text to the musical themes. "I felt like the reflections were essentially the glue that held the entire program together. They add little spiritual significance, because I believe the reflection literally reflects the thoughts that the listener might have while hearing the pieces themselves," Qian said. These reflections allowed the audience time to absorb both the meanings of what they were hearing, as well as to give them a time to focus on different aspects of their lives and make connections with the messages.

This program featured pieces from many different musical genres, melded together to form a diverse setting with the one cohesive message of "alleluia." From the Holst "The Heart Worships" to the Ralph M. Johnson of "Sing Hey for the Carpenter" to the spiritual hymn anthem "There is a Balm in Gilead," Cantorei performed each piece with great sensitivity to individual style and conveyed their passion for the music in all that they sang. "I really enjoyed the repertoire they performed," Jason Smith '09 said. "It included some of the more traditional hymns that Cantorei is known for, but also other styles, such as spirituals."

In fact, it was during one of the spirituals that many listeners were left with awe and wonder upon their face, showing a deeper appreciation and understanding. The hymn "Were You There" is a common Lenten/Easter hymn which tells the story of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection. As with other hymns of the night, the audience was invited to sing along during some of the verses. However, the culmination of the evening was not in loud raising of so many voices, but in the absence of the sound of the masses. Cantorei sang the third verse of "Were You There" solo, and it was there that the enchantingly small and pure sound of their voices ringing out through the chapel, singing "Where you there when they laid him in the Tomb?" created a sense of utter reverence and majesty.

From start to finish, this concert exhibited Cantorei's glorious sound and its ability to connect on a deep and meaningful plane with its audience members. The final piece of the evening, "Alleluia" by Ralph Manuel, excellently portrayed Cantorei's intimacy and spirituality. "It was a perfect ending to the concert. It really summed up the whole experience for me," Kara Erstad, '09 said.

With the warm and flowing "alleluias," weaving from voice to voice, this sweet and gentle piece left the audience in a reflective silence for several moments before bursting into applause for the fabulous and meaningful evening, oh so appropriately entitled "Alleluia."

A night of quiet beauty, this was a truly magnificent program, encouraging an intimate relationship between choir and audience. The music made by Cantorei in this home concert was full of glory and splendor, exemplifying a perfect balance of spirituality and musicality.

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