Chorale showcases emotive arrangements

The sporadic rain didn’t stop music lovers from folding into the seats of the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall for the Collegium Musicum and Chorale presentation Saturday night. Under the direction of associate professor of music Robert Guarino and John McDonnell, assistant professor of music, the two showcased a musical selection of diverse proportions.

“It is my philosophy that students should be learning a wide range of high-level repertoire,” McDonnell, director of Chorale, said. He added that he anticipates the incorporation of Mozart’s Requiem for the spring semester’s performance.

Even the Collegium Musicum, which was established for the exploration and presentation of baroque and renaissance classics, included “I’m a Train” by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood, with a literal arrangement by Peter Knight. The piece was used to close the first half of the night, and immediately followed a 16th century French tongue twister, “Il est bel et bon” by Pierre Passereau. The vocalists blended their respective pitches to create the sound of a coal engine train departing.

“I wanted to try something that would be just as fun for the performers as it was for the audience,” Guarino said.

Chorale played with staging and instrumentation in some of their pieces. “Son De Camaguey,” as arranged by Stephen Hatfield, called for an unexpected percussion ensemble – which was formed from members of Chorale.

The gripping rhythm took over the performance, causing insuppressible head nods and toe taps throughout the hall.

For the American classic “Homeward Bound,” arranged by Marta Keen, the tenors and basses approached the edge of the stage and engaged the audience in an indescribable exploration of longing, love and separation, for which McDonnell could only reply, “There’s just something about men singing.”

“What sets Chorale apart is its words. It has rhythm, harmony and melody just like other music,” McDonnell said. “But it’s the words that make the music more accessible, more capable of reliving the artistic experience.”

The tear-jerking “MLK,” a tribute to the late Martin Luther King Jr. arranged by Bob Chilcott, effectively captured the emotions experienced upon King’s death – the indiscernible moans of grief in perfect harmony and the steadfast hope for the manifestation of the visionary’s dream.

Soloist Nikolaos Dogas, sophomore music education major, worked almost as a translator for the audience. His lyrics articulated the harmonious sorrow of the nearly 50 voices behind him.

There was one thing that was undeniable about the performances’ – their passion. From the conductors’ movements, to the voices with their elegant movements to the tempo, to the smiles and joyous eyes of the performers, the audience was able to watch people displaying their love.

“I have been singing in choirs for as far back as I can remember, and there is just the passion you get when you sing with a large group of people, it’s such a deep connection and moving experience,” Gregory Boyle, sophomore music education major, said.

The show closed with a moving arrangement of the American gospel classic, “Amazing Grace,” by Roger Ames, concluding another international exploration of choral music by the music department.