Sometimes, after hours of painstaking practice and when performed just right, music has a funny way of perfectly imitating the inconceivable majesty of nature. The shrill whistle of a flute is evocative of wild prairie winds at one moment and calming bird calls the next. A flurry of brassy horns fused with a sudden crash of Zildjian cymbals have the power to audibly illustrate the ferocity of a storm at sea. Most astoundingly, however, is the human voice’s shocking ability to accurately encapsulate the bold, evanescent spirit of the Northern lights.
In an astounding feat of musical talent and vocal finesse, the University Chorale of Boston College entranced its audience with the eerie beauty of aurora borealis. Performing Norwegian-born Ola Gjeilo’s “Northern Lights,” the chamber singers of the chorale treated their sizeable audience to an enjoyably transcendental musical experience, an otherworldly ode to the natural, luminescent phenomenon.
Airy and light, the vocals of this particular song served as the perfect lead into the intense and impassioned sound of the next number, which was a Latvian folksong composed by Eriks Esenvalds. Yet another nod to the unbridled beauty of the Northern lights, the song tells of the simultaneous waves of overwhelming awe and horror which must have tormented the souls of those who first discovered the natural light show. The Chorale singers deftly conveyed Esenvald’s message of conflicting sentiments, their voices ebbing and flowing in pitch and volume as the tone shifted from blissful serenity to palpable panic. The students played with the power of vocal crescendos and fluctuation, their efforts ultimately culminating in a rather realistic impression of the elegantly dancing lightwaves—that is, if the aurora’s graceful dance across the night sky could be translated from the visible to the audible realm, a moving image encapsulated in sound.
While the Northern lights’ pieces were a defining portion of the performance, the show featured other captivating numbers from the Chorale singers. The group’s signature songs, Camille Saint-Saens’ euphoric “Tollite Hostias” and Lodovico Viadana’s jaunty “Exsultate Justi,” were well-received by the audience members, who sat attentive and intrigued by the students’ showcase of musical prowess throughout the entirety of the show.
Immediately following “Exsultate Justi,” Chorale director introduced Kyung won “Josh” Seo, MCAS ’17, the show’s featured guest conductor. With great poise and the precision of a seasoned conductor, Seo led the Chorale in George Frideric Handel’s spirited song “Let Their Celestial Concerts All Unite.” Majoring in music and biochemistry, Seo is also the director of the Madrigal Singers at BC. Having started his singing, composing, and conducting career when he was 16, Seo put his skills to the test in front of a large crowd of classical music lovers from the BC community.
Entitled “Sunrise Mass,” Gjeilo’s four-part blend of mesmerizing instrumentals and vocals was the final piece performed, spanning a period of nearly 30 minutes. The students’ voices, lifted in harmonious exaltation, provided the audience with a rousing and inventive rendition of a typical Christian Mass. Latin lyrics, synchronized voices, and the various string instruments combined to create an evocative musical experience for all in attendance.
The piece began with “The Spheres,” a calming opening to an emotion-evoking piece marked by a melange of beautiful harmonies. The soft voices blended perfectly into the beginning of the euphoric “Sunrise.” Sharply contrasting its lighthearted tone was “The City,” a powerful and compelling piece made possible by the male singers’ booming vocals. The triumphant tone of this portion transitioned nicely into the final part of the piece entitled “Identity & The Ground.” A rather long song, the varied nature of the four parts broke “Sunrise Mass” into manageable pieces for the audience to enjoy.
Though the University Chorale’s Annual Spring Concert marks the final formal performance for the chorale members graduating this year, the group will take the stage to perform at BC’s annual Arts Fest on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 on O’Neil Plaza. As usual, it will also be featured at the Commencement Mass and Graduation Ceremony.
The University Chorale’s choice of music pieces were wonderfully suited for the warm spring season—jaunty and enthusiastic as well as serene and mellow, the tone of the performance kept audience members engrossed in the Chorale’s classical performance. The inclusion of Gjeilo-composed songs as well as the celestial and religious themes incorporated into the program contributed to the rejuvenating nature of Spring—a season marked by rebirth, rejoicing, and the overpowering prevalence of nature.
Featured Image By Kristen Saleski/ Heights Staff