St. Ignatius Church was the host to the Boston College University Chorale on Saturday night for the group’s annual winter concert. The church has long been a popular venue for performances, and it’s majesty did not disappoint on this evening. The detailed architecture and warm lighting was the perfect backdrop for a night of beautiful song. The audience was filled with family, friends, and students, and everyone was quite lively and friendly while they waited with much anticipation for the concert to begin.
Although this is an annual concert, the performance tonight carried some special weight, as it was part of conductor John Finney’s 25th year at BC. Finney, who has been recognized as one of the finest and most versatile musicians in all of Boston, has long been a staple at the heads of both the University Chorale and Symphony Orchestra at BC. Finney’s conducting did not stand in isolation at this concert, as he was supported by Darryl Hollister, who was flawless on the piano.
Many have certain fixed ideas of what a chorale concert should consist of: lots of old, classic pieces sung mostly in Latin and largely indistinguishable from each other. While the chorale’s performance tonight certainly contained a number of these more traditional pieces—all sung very beautifully of course—the true magic of this concert was the variety that Finney provided in arranging the setlist.
“Tollite Hostias” was a wonderful way to start off the performance. The piece, sung to Finney on his introduction into the ensemble 25 years ago, was nothing short of majestic. “Domine, non sum dignus” was another standout from the early part of the program. In stark contrast with the beautiful and bright overtones of “Tollite Hostias,” it was a slower, more reserved piece, sung in an achingly beautiful and wistful manner. “Ave Maria” was an excellent choice—a well-known favorite—and the arrangement was unique. A final, noteworthy piece was “Ev’ry Time I feel the Spirit,” an arrangement of a traditional African-American spiritual song that was both energetic and beautiful.
The variety of the concert has already been noted—the pieces on display spanned between the 16th and 20th centuries—and it can also be seen in some of these standout pieces, but the programmers must also be commended for the way they organized the concert. They interspersed calmer, slower songs with quicker, lively tunes, keeping the audience on their toes and engaged. The performance of three pieces in the middle of the concert by the members of the Chamber Singers of the University Chorale, a smaller group of vocalists, was perfectly timed. These three productions were all wonderful in their own right, as they were a more personal and intimate set within the overall production.
The fantastic music was reflected in the mannerisms and displays of the performers on stage. They all seemed highly engaged in the music, following Finney at every turn. The singers appeared happy with the performance they were putting on for the crowd, balancing all their parts very well, as the individual sections (Sopranos, Altos, etc.) could all be easily picked out with casual listening.
Featured Image Kristin Saleski / Heights Staff