The Vespers service is a traditional liturgical service with special music performed by the Chapel Choir and the Philharmonia. The music has the same theme throughout all of the pieces, which are from the same period and ideally the same composer.
Requiem is a difficult piece, yet Jo Ann Polley, conductor of Philharmonia expressed great confidence in the Philharmonia: "Im glad were doing it even though it is difficult and it is early in the year. Its important for musicians to be able to play something so meaningful and beautiful at least once in their lives." The prelude of the Vespers service, "Masonic Funeral Music," and the postlude, "La Clemenza di Tito," performed by Philharmonia, were also composed at the end of Mozarts life. The Vespers service also included solos by faculty members Alison Feldt, soprano; Anne DOyley Adams, mezzo-soprano; Dan Dressen, tenor; and James McKeel, baritone. Also taking part in the service were Pastor Bruce Benson performing the liturgy, Evelyn Johnson 05 as cantor, and John Ferguson as organist.
This production encapsulated many positive aspects and only a few roadblocks in the collaboration process. Practices for each group are normally held on different days of the week, which made it a challenge for everyone to rehearse together.
However, the good far outweighs the bad. "The groups get the advantage of working with two conductors who have differing styles, which is a great learning experience," said Polley. "The orchestra people are wonderful musicians so working with a different conductor in terms of style was not a problem by any means," affirmed Robert Scholz, conductor of Chapel Choir.
Not only do they learn from their conductors, but they also learn from each other. "The vocalists learn how the instrumentalists do their work and vice versa. It offers a great change of perspective for everyone, which only benefits them," said Scholz.
After all of the time spent on rehearsing and preparing the service, Vespers was a powerful and emotional performance, which earned a standing ovation from the large audience. Philharmonia member Jennifer Levenhagen 04 said that "the best aspect of the Vespers service in particular, is the large number of people that come to the service. The interaction between the people, orchestra, and choir throughout the service really sets the stage for an emotional night of music. Tonight, it really felt like we were one group of people, not separate in groups of audience, choir, and orchestra."
The St. Olaf Philharmonia was founded in 1975 as a twelve member string ensemble called the St Olaf Chamber Orchestra. In 1994, Dr. Jo Ann Polley assumed the conducting position and still leads the ensemble, whose name was changed in 1996 to Philharmonia when it became a full size orchestra. Philharmonia has 95 members this year.
The St. Olaf Chapel Choir was started specifically as the campus church choir around 1954. The Chapel Choir is the largest mixed choir on campus with 110 members and is comprised of talented vocalists who are not specifically music majors. "The non-majors, who come to sing after a full day of lectures in class, add a strong sense of spirituality to the group. It serves as an emotional release for them," Scholz said. "Musical ensembles are communities in where we can grow in our understanding of the gifts we have been given, but the real joy is when we are blessed with the opportunity to share ourselves with others," Chapel Choir member Ryan Rasmussen 04 said.