With bells, bongos, drums, a xylophone and a marimba, the stage at Kresge Recital Hall on Saturday night looked more prepared for an orchestra than a choir. The performance that would follow, showed those two things are not as different as they seem.
The crowd erupted as Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Laura Lane and Instructor of Music Nikki Malley entered behind the Nova Singers. After a bow of appreciation, Lane lifted her hands to cue the first piece.
Malley opened the night with a marimba solo played with two mallets in each hand on “Poemas de Amor,” a collection of love songs by Stephen Paulus. The second song, “De tu Cama a la Mia,” was the most dissonant of the five and featured a shimmering soprano solo. The fourth song, “Si lo dicen, digan,” was a pleasant harmonic contrast, weaving effortlessly through keys as it approached each cadence. The pieces featured Malley on a variety of percussion instruments, including a ratchet, congos and tubular bells.
Although all the pieces were phenomenal accomplishments, perhaps the most impressive was Veljo Tormis’ “Raua Needmine” (“Curse Upon Iron”), a heart-stopping, prophetic warning of the dangers of war and technology. The piece began with a driving, warlike tribal rhythm by Malley that carried throughout the entire song, becoming more ominous and pervasive throughout. The climax of the song sent jolts throughout the audience, featuring a blood-curdling scream from the entire choir that was cut off by a devastating strike of a drum. The theme returned at the end of the ten-minute song where consecutive drum hits took out each voice part one by one, giving the feeling of a warrior delivering a final blow to his victims.
The intensity and complexity of “Raua Needmine” generated mixed reactions.
“It was beautifully done, and I understand the talent it takes to put on the performance … but personally, I found it hard to follow,” junior Franzesca Mayer said. “But it was still fantastic.”
Freshman Clint Davis enjoyed and respected the feelings the piece evoked, despite its complexity.
“It was so intense. It was the one piece that sent shivers down my spine,” he said.
The second half of the concert contained more uplifting and just as impressive pieces, Eric Whittaker’s “Cloudburst” created a gigantic soundscape with rain noises made by snaps, claps and percussion played by senior Sam Lewis, junior Ben Kammerer and Malley. “Trepute Martela” was a quirky piece that featured junior Laurel Tippe and Pier Debes ’11 on dueling melodicas. During “Saboo,” Malley performed an impressive marimba solo. The second half also featured a debut of the beautiful “High Flight,” written exclusively for choir and xylophone by Associate in Applied Music Daniel Godsil.
To top off the night, the last piece was an energy-filled calypso “Kyrie Eleison,” performed with Associate Professors of Music Jeremy Day-O’Connell and Sarah Day-O’Connell on steel drums, Lewis on drums and senior Oliver Horton on upright bass. The piece featured a meditative solo from Jeremy Day-O’Connell that had the audience in complete silence.
Overall, the concert was truly a novel success. The daringness of the more unique pieces was bolstered by the tenacity and conviction with which the ensembles performed. Nova Singers proved Saturday just how powerful choral music can be when combined with the force of percussion.