The Knox College Choir and Chamber Singers had the first concert of their spring tour last Friday. Professor Laura Lane directed the choirs through a variety of music ranging from medieval music to modern songs in Creole and New Latin over the course of the afternoon. Although it was cold and windy, quite a few Galesburg community members and Knox students were present at First Lutheran Church on Sunday afternoon.
The full choir performed eight songs. The Chamber singers performed four. The men of the choir performed one song, and to conclude the concert, the full choir and all former choir members in the audience sang the Knox College Hymn.
The centerpiece of the concert was Canticum Calamitatis Maritimae by Jaakko Mantyjarvi. The song, written in Latin, is about the sinking of the ferry Estonia in the Baltic Sea in 1994. Dr. Lane spoke about the pieces the choir was performing.
“Canticum is the most challenging work on the program, so it affected the rest of the program,” she said. “I always go for variety of styles, time periods, tempos, moods, languages, rhythmic patterns, ecetera. I think this program contains tremendous variety and beauty — every piece on the program is different from every other piece, each one is beautiful in its own way and expressive of ideas that we can relate to and convey to the audience.”
Another important piece in the lineup on Sunday was Gloria by Guillaume de Machaut, which was performed by the Chamber Singers. According to Dr. Lane, it is highly unusual for a college choir to perform a medieval piece of music from 1500.
“The closest thing to medieval music that most people know and have heard is Gregorian Chant …. Still, many people have not truly ‘listened’ to this music because it is old… and not as easily come by in recorded music. This piece, Messe de Notre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377), is the first known complete setting of the Mass Proper which is the Latin text spoken at every catholic service … Performances of music from the medieval period are few and far between and this is a really special opportunity for people to experience and appreciate something they probably never have. It’s truly beautiful and exciting music if people open their ears and their minds and give it a chance,” said choir member junior John Eisemann said.
The concert was warmly received by the audience, and the pieces Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal and Canticum Calamitatis Maritimae in particular.
“I was very happy with [the show]. This is an extremely difficult program, and the group did a great job. We will improve on tour because we’ll memorize the rest of the pieces and continue to polish them,” said Lane.