This past Friday, Boston College’s Newton Campus was not filled with its usual Friday night crowd. The customary crowd dressed in BC athletic gear was replaced by sophisticated families and groups of friends cocooned in dark coats as they headed towards Trinity Chapel for the University Chorale of Boston College’s annual Fall Concert. At the doors, each attendee was handed a program and personally greeted by a member of the chorale, all of whom were impressively dressed in either floor sweeping black dresses, or formal suits with bowties. The crowd filed in and waited in anticipation for the performance to begin.
And shortly after 8 p.m., the performance began with an introduction from the Chorale’s Director, John Finney. Finney briefly outlined the night’s program, first introducing the two shorter opening works, both written by composers of shockingly young ages in homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary, before introducing what would be the evening’s featured piece: Dvorak’s Mass in D.
The performance began with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Regina Coeli,” featuring Chamber Singers of the University Chorale and the orchestra. “Regina Coeli,” which lasted just under 10 minutes, was composed by Mozart when he was just 23 years old—a stunning feat considering the beautiful intricacy of the work. The piece began with the stunning vocals of the male and female Chamber Singers mixed together with the orchestra to produce a robust and joyous sound that collectively enthralled the chapel. As the piece continued, listeners were better able identify the nuances of the work—how the exuberant strength of the vocals cooperated with the stunning delicacy of the orchestra, allowing each component to shine. The subtle drama came towards the end, as the shifts in dynamics became much more rapid, allowing the music to slide between an almost delicate whisper to a powerful declaration of euphoric praise.
The program continued with Ave Maria, a piece composed this year by BC’s own Andrew Gaffney, MCAS ’16. This performance marked the world-premier of the heartfelt piece, which is scored for the French horn, the solo flute played by Isabelle Pazar, MCAS ’18, and strings. A slow crescendo introduced the piece, layering the long, throbbing, notes of the strings with the almost melancholy notes of the French horn. As the higher notes of the violins entered, the music took on a beautiful fragility that faded as the the male and female vocals intertwined with the music from the instruments. The piece grew even more powerful towards its end, evoking a sense of almost joyous longing before slowly fading into silence. After sitting in appreciative shock for a few seconds, the audience erupted into enthusiastic applause and a well deserved standing ovation, requiring several bows from the young composer, and prompting Finney to suggest that the audience get his autograph while they still could.
Then began the night’s finale, Dvorak’s almost forty-minute long Mass in D major, Op. 86. The piece, composed in 1887, was divided into five parts, each with their own distinct personality that allowed the piece to encompass a range of sounds while maintaining a sense of unity. The first section of Mass in D had an obvious complexity, with the entire chorale and orchestra creating a twirling and powerful melody. The strength of each note created a rich drama that ensured the audience was immersed in the sounds and waiting with anticipation to hear each note.
The piece then continued, at times filled with a fast-paced excitement and at others slowing in tempo. It cast a trance over the audience, as if it was recounting a story that the listeners could almost understand. Like any complex narrative, moments during the piece became so ethereal and quiet that it seemed an attempt to lull the audience to sleep. However, every delicate moment was balanced with a section of exquisite power that kept the audience at the edge of their seats.
When Mass in D did come to an end, it was somehow unexpected. During the performance it seemed that the music would continue forever, forming a beautiful, sound-filled bubble around the audience that would never pop. Although the Chorale’s enthralling Fall Concert lasted a little over an hour, it left the audience at loathe to return to the reality outside that, with its frigid temperatures and biting wind, seemed more like winter than ever before.
Featured Image by Clare Kim / Heights Staff