Parents, grandparents, children, and students filled the pews of St. Ignatius Church to watch and listen to the University Chorale of Boston College perform at its annual winter concert on Saturday.
The hour-long concert began a few minutes after 7 p.m. inside the church, which was illuminated by yellow-hued lights hanging from the high ceiling. The chorale was conducted by John Finney, who is in his 21st year as the director of the Chorale.
The University Chorale’s vice president Sydney Barada, A&S ’14, gave an introduction, followed by a performance of “Tollite Hostias” from Oratorio de Noel by Camille Saint-Saens. It is “kind of a signature song of the University Chorale,” Finney said.
Organist Dexter Kennedy, who is a master of music candidate at the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music, accompanied the singers. Kennedy was also the organist for the Chorale during its tour in Rome last March.
“Having been trained as an organist myself, I know that what he’s doing is very, very tricky and very complicated,” Finney said while introducing Kennedy at the concert. “To take an orchestral score and make it sound as effortless as he does on the organ is a real skill.”
Finney has also been the conductor of the BC Symphony Orchestra since 1999 and is known as one of the most important musicians in the Boston area.
With approximately 160 male and female members, the entirely student-run chorale is the largest singing group and the second-largest organization on campus. Its repertoire is mostly classical but also includes modern pieces from film soundtracks, American folk songs, and traditional carols.
“I think the concert was fantastic,” said the Chorale’s president, Mariana Eizayaga, A&S ’14, in an email. Eizayaga was recovering from strep throat and sat with the audience during the concert.
“It was strange to be in the public and not singing with the chorale, but I got to hear the whole piece instead of just the part that my section sings, and that made it a very different experience,” Eizayaga said.
Other classical songs that were performed included “Exsultate Justi” by Lodovico Viadana, “Magnificat” by Francesco Durante, “Ave verum corpus” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and selections from “Missa Sancti Nicolai” by Franz Joseph Haydn. The performances of the selections from Haydn featured a duet by sopranos Hannah Bowlin, A&S, ’17 and Jessica Letizia, A&S ’14.
“The winter concert is always wonderful since it’s the one time in the year we get to perform in St. Ignatius,” Barada said in an email. “Performing with just the organ, too, gives the concert a very special feel. We’ve been rehearsing three hours a week since the semester began, practicing new pieces, old favorites, and some selections from the fall concert.”
The singers and organist performed American songs during the second half of the concert, beginning with “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal,” a hymn arranged by Alice Parker. The song featured an exchange of the female and male voices in the choir.
The next song, “Alleluia” by Randall Thompson, was unique in that the only word sung was “alleluia” until the end when “amen” was sung once.
The last four pieces included two African-American spirituals written by Moses Hogan, who was a classmate of Finney at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music.
“He was a brilliant, brilliant pianist and a brilliant arranger of spiritual,” Finney said.
The concert ended with a performance of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” a hymn arranged by Mack Wilber.
As the only organization on campus that is allowed to travel internationally-besides those for service trips and athletics-the Chorale will tour and perform in Madrid and Barcelona during spring break from Mar. 3 to 7.
Its upcoming events include its spring concert in Trinity Chapel on Newton Campus on April 12 at 8 p.m. and the Arts Festival at O’Neill Plaza on April 24.
Other performances throughout the year include its annual Pops on the Heights concert during Parents’ Weekend, the fall concert, the Christmas concert series, the spring concert, and Arts Festival performances.