University Chorale Delivers Spirited Performance at Sunrise Mass

The University Chorale of Boston College performed a theological-themed set with fervor and spirit at its Sunrise Mass in Trinity Chapel Friday evening. Now in his 27th year as director of the Chorale, conductor John Finney led the approximately 160-member choir through its Latin verses with precision.   

Steeped in tradition, the Chorale’s performance combined religious melodies with masterful technique and sound. An orchestra composed of violins, violas, violoncellos, basses, and an organ accompanied the performers during their last two pieces of the night.     

Finney pulled the Chamber Choir members forward to perform the first four songs, beginning with Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s “Sicut Cervus,” a soft, serene piece about longing for God. Hans Leo Hassler’s “Verbum Caro Factum Est” and Peter Philips’ “O Beatum et Sacrosanctum Diem” subtly incorporated Christmas motifs. Both songs emitted a reverent yet joyous tone as they celebrated the birth of Jesus.          

Opting for a more modern liturgical piece, the Chamber Choir ended with “Northern Lights” by Ola Gjeilo. Evoking the mystery of an aurora, the choir members’ range of voices faded in and out, channeling light, color, and depth into the enchanting melody.             

The Chamber Choir joined the University Chorale for their last two pieces, “Magnificat in B-flat Major” by Francesco Durante and “Sunrise Mass” by Ola Gjeilo. “Magnificat in B-flat Major” was an uplifting piece that featured both orchestral and vocal solos. Chorale members Johnny Lu, MCAS ’22, and Chris Andaloro, MCAS ’22, broke away from the Chorale halfway through the piece to perform a duet.  

The Chorale closed with “Sunrise Mass,” also by Ola Gjeilo, a piece Finney admits is an unusual choice due to its length—its run time is approximately 35 minutes. Broken down into four sections—The Spheres, Sunrise, The City, and Identity and The Ground—the Chorale’s performance built in sound and intensity.  

Layered with a distinct violin and powerful cello, The Spheres began the piece with slow, low reverberating vocals that faded in and out. Transitioning to the Sunrise section, the Chorale adopted a lighter tone—the members’ melodic voices melded with the shivering sway of the violins. The piece reached its peak at The City before transitioning into the Identity and The Ground section. Mirroring The Spheres, the Identity and The Ground sections concluded the piece with crying violins and spare, low vocals, ending the evening on a reverent note.      

Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / For The Heights