University choral ensembles sing diverse program in concert

By Mathew Washlick Contributing writer

The Susquehanna choral ensembles presented their fall concert in Stretansky Concert Hall on Nov. 13.

According to Julia Thorn, associate professor of music and one of two conductors for the ensembles, the program’s repertoire did not have a theme for this concert.

“It was an opportunity to demonstrate a snapshot of the work that all of the choral ensembles have been doing this semester,” Thorn said.

The program pieces were diverse, featuring works of South African folk background, Baroque chorales and contemporary classics, all in succession.

One of the pieces was “Magnificat,” a work of the Baroque composer Niccola Porpora. The piece consisted of two movements.

The first movement was titled “Magnificat anima mea” and featured the University Chorale soprano and alto group.

The second and final movement, “Et exultavit,” translated as “He Shouted,” featured solo performances by first-years Lena Costello, Lucy Ferruzza and Sarah McMillin.

“For both the soprano/alto chorale and tenor/bass chorale, I tried to select music from a variety of styles, eras and composers,” said Jason Vodicka, assistant professor of music.

“The tenor/bass chorale sang two settings of Psalm texts, one in Hebrew by a contemporary composer and one in German by J. S. Bach,” Vodicka continued.

“They also sang a South African folk song arrangement and an a cappella pop piece,” he added.

Although Thorn said the concert lacked an overall theme, Vodicka decided to give a theme to the pieces selected by one of his groups.

“For the soprano/alto chorale, I selected music around the theme of inclusiveness and hope. They started with Leonard Bernstein’s setting of the Kaddish prayer from his third symphony, which is a prayer of praise said as part of the Jewish funeral rite,” Vodicka said.

“They then continued with a setting of Psalm 121 from Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah.’ Next was Joan Szymko’s setting of St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer ‘Nada te turbe:’ Let nothing frighten you, all things are passing, God never changes,” Vodicka continued.

“The set ended with the gospel piece ‘I am His Child’ by Moses Hogan,” he added.

Vodicka emphasized the importance of selecting texts from artists of many backgrounds.

“I think it’s notable that there are texts here from a variety of religious traditions that deal with hope amid despair and compositions from female, Jewish, gay and African American composers,” Vodicka said.

For Thorn, it was important to join their new singers to the old to create a sound that is blended and balanced across the board.

“The choir has many new faces, so my goal for this semester was to achieve a cohesive sound between the 52 singers as well as maximize musicianship,” Thorn said.

She said her hopes for the concert were for the students to sing to the best of their abilities and enjoy their performance.

For Vodicka, the concert represented a milestone for his chorale, making it a unique experience for them.

Vodicka said: “This concert was unique because it is the first time we have had both a men’s and women’s choir. The [tenor/bass] chorale focused on interacting with and listening to each other as they sang their set. The [soprano/alto] group worked mostly on musical nuance and independence these last few weeks.”

The concert went well for the directors and they were happy with the performance.

“The students did an excellent job and will continue to grow and improve with each rehearsal and additional performances,” Thorn said.

“[I] hope that the singers would have an opportunityto reflect on their accomplishments so far this semester,” Vodicka said. “Sometimes when you’re in the midst of the rehearsal process it’s hard to see how far you’ve come.”

The next event sponsored by the Music Department will be the Symphonic Band concert on Nov. 20 at 2:30 p.m. in Stretansky Concert Hall.

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