Review: Choral Showcase

By Jamie Washington, Reporter

The Choral Showcase of Shenandoah University’s Shenandoah Chorus, Cantus Singers, Conservatory Choir, and Shenandoah Singers was a coming together of the numerous, dynamic and diverse voices which SU has to offer.

The afternoon of music began with a performance by the Cantus Singers, conducted and directed by Karen Keating. Their opening song, “Nigra Sum” by Pablo Casals, was a lovely start to the event. The inclusion of an English translation of the song in the show pamphlet helped further the emotional impact of the piece. Additionally, Yongsook Baber provided piano accompaniment to the piece that fit well with the women’s voices.

The talents of the Cantus Singers shone through further with their second piece, “III. Tambourines”, the text of which was written by Langston Hughes but was put to music by Gwyneth Walker. The song was a mixture of tambourine onomatopoeias, with singers occasionally clapping, hissing, snapping and rolling their tongues while their fellow choir members sung the words of Langston Hughes. This piece served as a strong finish and a fun way to end the Cantus Singers’ part of the programming.

Following the Cantus Singers was the Shenandoah Chorus, also conducted and directed by Keating. The Shenandoah Chorus was a much larger group, and it showed as their voices powerfully filled the entirety of Armstrong Hall. The “Afro-American Fragments” part of the programming was theirs, and they wholly owned it.

Their first song, “V. Feet O’Jesus” by William Averitt, had a sorrowful gospel sound to it.

“I love the dissonance of the piece, and the intensity of it as well. It’s a very powerful song,” Elizabeth Anderson, a music education freshman and a member of the Shenandoah Chorus said after the event.

The intensity of the song came from not only its lyrics but also its singers. The passion which the choir held for the song was evident, and only grew more evident as the dissonance showed itself in the form of the song splitting into multiple parts.

Greg Gilpin’s “Nothin’ Gonna Stumble My Feet” was the Shenandoah Chorus’ second song, and brought new elements of the choir’s dynamic to the surface. The rich, deep male voices provided what felt like a physical depth to the piece.

After the conclusion of the large round of applause which was well-earned by the Shenandoah Chorus, the Conservatory Choir, led and conducted by Scott Allen Jarrett, took the stage. Before starting however, Jarrett said that it was not often that the choirs were able to come together in one place to perform.

“It’s always such an interesting experience to have so much talent in one room. It’s beautiful,” said Maggie Bullock, a freshman music education major and a member of the Shenandoah chorus, said following the event.

Jarrett and the Shenandoah Chorus began their first song “Psalm 43: Richte Mich, Gott, op. 78, No.2” by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. It was the second foreign language piece of the event, but unlike the first, it did not have accompanying English lyrics. This made the piece more enchanting because it was up to each audience member to weave their own story out of the song. The soaring voices brought beauty and resonance to the lyrics, rounding out the harsh ending consonants of some words.

“I Will Lift Mine Eyes” by Jake Runnestad continued the theme of religious songs. It was at this point in the afternoon that the audience’s attention seemed to begin drifting. However, whether intentional or not, it seemed that the Conservatory Choir had planned for this and began a powerful crescendo that peaked on the lyric, “He will keep your soul”. The song then went down softly for the remaind. This sudden mixture of loudness then gentleness drew the audience back in.

As their final piece of the afternoon, the Conservatory Choir seemed to pour all of themselves into Charles Wood’s “Hail, Gladdening Light” (originally translated from Greek by John Keble).

The final group to take the stage was the Shenandoah Singers, which is the University’s a capella group. All of its pieces were a departure from the religious themes, and were instead modern songs that worked well with the acapella style.

One of the most prominent aspects of the group’s performance throughout all of its pieces was their repeated looks at one another as they sang. The sense of community that this formed spread among both group members and the audience, drawing everyone into the works being performed.

Their first song, “Light in the Hallway,” arranged by Pentatonix, had Alex Moore as its leading soloist. His soothing voice perfectly matched the lyrics and tone of the song, and the Singers’ harmonizing on the chorus of the song brought a new layer of beauty to the piece.

The next piece was Eric Clapton’s “Change the World” which had Cherish Williams as its soloist. As a song sung in acapella, the most powerful parts of this song came when, for each chorus, the members would cease their snapping and only their voices could be heard. Their voices soaring alone through the auditorium made it clear how entranced the audience was by their every note, and also helped the song make a powerful impact.

The final song of the showcase was Sia’s “Chandelier” which was organized for a capella performance by Twisted Measure. With Angela Garcia Clark as the soloist, the meaning of the song’s lyrics was pushed to the surface and the pop song had suddenly become the tale of a party girl losing herself. The audience visibly shivered as the group stopped their snapping and let only Clark’s voice fill the air on the lyric, “Throw ‘em back, ‘til I lose count.” At the conclusion of the song, the Shenandoah Singers applauded the soloists from all three of their songs while the audience did the same.

Overall, the Choral Showcase was a beautiful melding of Shenandoah University’s choirs.

Each choir brought their own brand of passion to the pieces which they performed, as well as their own style. With the talented voices of Shenandoah University behind them, every song told a story that extended beyond its lyrics.

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