Chorale’s Skilled Voices Traverse Difficult Setlist With Poise and Beauty

The sonorous, sophisticated sound of a singing choir, each voice in perfect harmony with the others, is a sound likely to send chills down the spine of every listener in the room. The high-arched roofs of cathedrals make for the perfect environment to listen to the echoes of chorale, which is perhaps what made this Saturday’s Chorale Winter Concert such a compelling experience.

In the warm evening glow of St. Ignatius Church, the University Chorale of Boston College performed a multitude of works from a variety of time periods and composers. Led by conductor John Finney and backed by pianist Darryl Hollister, University Chorale began the night with their rendition of “Tollite Hostias,” a piece by composer Camille Saint-Saens. In the words of Director Finney, the work is the “theme song” of University Chorale, and it made a fitting transition into the beauty of the rest of the performance.

This year’s Winter Concert covered music from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Italian composers Claudio Monteverdi and Lodovico Viadana were featured. In particular, Viadana’s “Exsultate Justi” beautifully exemplified the vocal range of BC’s Chorale. From soprano to alto, tenor to baritone to bass, every note sung sounded perfectly in sync.

Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, author of “Mass in D Major, Op. 86,” was also prominently featured—in fact, this was Chorale’s strongest point in the night. Excerpts from “Kyrie” and “Credo” perfectly fit the vocal style of University Chorale, making St. Ignatius echo with beauty and solemnity. Closing the night were several hymns by Aaron Copeland, a piece by Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford, and an African-American spiritual arrangement by William Dawson. By far, the latter was the most interesting risk of the evening—Dawson’s arrangement fell outside the standard genre of choir music Saturday evening, but was performed wonderfully by University Chorale.

Even beyond the variety of cultural backgrounds, it was refreshing to see every member of the choir genuinely enjoy themselves as they sang. Smiles dotted the faces of all of the performers, which truly improved the appeal of each song. Jephte, performed by the 22 Chamber Singers of University Chorale is a key example—when artists have fun, their art is that much more beautiful.

Most of all, it would be unfair to let the work of John Finney and Darryl Hollister go unnoticed. Hollister, a respected pianist and performer, played alongside University Chorale on piano for the entire evening, adding a hallowed layer of instrumental accompaniment. He performs often in the Boston area and has been featured at the Festival of African and African-American Music in St. Louis, as well as The International Symposium and Festival on Composition in Africa.

Much like Hollister, Finney has an impressive resume of performances—this being his 23rd year of directing University Chorale, he has led the choir to concerts in New York City, Dublin, Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Rome. His work was exemplary Saturday night, leading University Chorale through a notably difficult setlist with relative ease. This, of course, speaks to the hard work of all involved, but would undoubtedly be impossible without the leadership of Finney.

There is truly an aura of spirituality and humanity in the sounds of a highly-skilled choir, and it is extremely apparent that BC’s University Chorale is incredibly talented. The Winter Concert is just the beginning of this year’s tour—Chorale still has a Spring Concert in April, as well as a performance at the annual Arts Festival shortly thereafter. Most excitingly, Mar. 4th to Mar. 12th, Chorale visits Budapest, Hungary, and Vienna, Austria, to share their voices with the world. If Saturday night’s concert was any indication, these countries have quite a performance headed their way.

Featured Image by Savanna Kiefer / Heights Editor