University Chorale Blends Religious and Secular Pieces

University Chorale

The University Chorale of Boston College, led by conductor John Finney and accompanied on piano by Julia Scott Carey, sang their final set of songs for the season on Thursday during Arts Fest, filling the tent on O’Neill Quad with their classical acoustics.  

The Chorale began its performance with three religiously-rooted pieces, starting the evening with the lively tune “Tollite Hostias” by Camille Saint-Saëns—a piece the Chorale has performed at multiple functions this year. For its first three songs—“Tollite Hostias,” “Exultate Justi,” and “Beati Quorum Via”—the Chorale sang in its composed and classical tone, sans-piano, demonstrating its vocal capacity emanating a calming musical tone with these initial pieces.

For “Cantique Jean Racine,” a French ballad proclaiming God, Carey accompanied the Chorale on the piano. Finney then had the Chamber Choir break off from the Chorale to sing “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” an emotional melody composed by Virgil Thomson.  They followed with the songs “Cantate Domino” by Hans Leo Hassler, a spirited motet from 17th century, and “Alleluia,” a piece by Boston composer Randall Thompson. These selections upheld the resounding religious themes Finney highlighted in the first half of the Chorale’s performance.

The Chamber Choir then briefly re-joined the Chorale to sing the American folk hymn “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal,” and “Every Time I Feel the Spirit,” an African-American hymn by William Dawson. Shifting back to an a capella aesthetic, these songs channeled upbeat praise and worship. The Chamber Choir broke off once again for its next two pieces, love songs that diverged from the religious elements accentuated in the previous songs. They sang the American ballad “Long Time Ago” by Aaron Copland, followed by the Hebrew song “Kala Kalla” by Eric Whitacre.  

Finney explained “Kala Kalla’s” origins, translating the title to “light and bride,” which can be roughly interpreted within the context of the song as the “bride is light on her feet.” This song began with the male voices singing slow, solemnly, only for the females to serenade back in a contrastingly light and staccato rhythm. As the song progressed, the melodies between the males and females began to blend together, their voices concluding in harmony.    

The Chamber Choir then merged with the Chorale for the finale. Finney led them as they closed their performance singing The Lion King’s “The Circle of Life,” a song choice which served as a final send off for the graduating seniors. This final piece, well-known and beloved by audiences, paired well with the commencement of the Chorale students’ time at BC.  Not only is this the final performance of the year for the University Chorale, it is the last time the seniors within the Chorale will perform.

Although this piece has largely been performed alongside elaborate instrumental accompaniments, Finney chose to maintain the Chorale’s classical sound by only mixing the piano with the Chorale’s vocals, an interpretation which concluded the Chorale’s showcase on an uplifting and joyous note.    

Featured Image by Kayla Brandt / For The Heights