On Sunday afternoon, those that had filed into the worn wooden pews at First Lutheran Church in Galesburg were awaiting splendor.
Indeed, the ornate stained glass windows and lofty ceiling of the church provided a befitting scene for the music that filled the sanctuary, courtesy of the 52-member Knox College Choir.
“It’s always a lot different going from … a rehearsal hall to somewhere else, churches especially,” choir member sophomore Clinton Davis said. “You sing and then you hear your voice for an extra two seconds after you’re done … it’s kind of crazy, to get that kind of sound.”
The send-off concert, directed by Professor of Music Laura Lane, marked the choir’s debut performance of the repertoire they will be taking to various New York City venues over spring break.
Several of the pieces required the vocalists to craft multiple distinct moods within a matter of minutes. The Latin hymn “Lucis Creator Optime” opened with a regal air in line with its praise-drenched lyrics. As the song continued, the feel shifted to quiet thoughtfulness, even reverence, before building back up to exaltation. Members of the Knox College Choir were able to convey these drastic changes in emotion not only in a short amount of time and in a foreign language, but while blending their individual voices among 51 others. The piece also featured soloists seniors Sophie Townsend and John Budding.
Other songs such as the Knox Chamber Singers’ performance of “Bumblebee” told stories with the use of lyrics and melody. The light, rhythmic accompaniment in “Bumblebee” created the sense of a natural outdoor setting and conjured up images of reeds fluttering in the breeze. The sustained notes from the lower voices created the titular character’s buzz.
The choir’s Haitian “Twa Tanbou” moved so quickly that the song’s story of three drums having an “argument” was better left up to the choir’s vocals than the translated lyrics in the program. While some choral members told the story, others provided the various timbres of the drums. Each drum spoke its “mind” in a lively manner, and the song increased in urgency until it ended with a flourish.
The afternoon’s performance also featured the world premiere of “Benedictus,” the first movement in a mass titled “Missa Brevis” composed by Ed Davis ’12 between November 2011 and May 2012 as part of his senior project. The movement featured a breathtaking pause in the music before ending on clear, resounding hosannas.
Davis called seeing his work performed live “unreal,” and said returning for his first choir concert as an audience member was a significant experience even without hearing “notes [he] put on a page come to life.”
Before the choir performed the last piece in their program, Lane invited audience members to the home tour concert at 7:30 p.m. on March 28 in Kresge Recital Hall. While most of the pieces will be the same, Lane noted that some tempos will be faster and Kresge’s smaller setting will highlight the intricacies of “Bumblebee” and “Twa Tanbou” more clearly.
Senior Rachel Fisher had a pleasant afternoon in the audience at First Lutheran.
“The concert was beautiful,” Fisher said. “I particularly enjoyed ‘Twa Tanbou.’ ”
As the choir embarks on their spring break trip — which includes a performance at Carnegie Hall, those interested can track the group’s New York state of mind by way of their photo and video blog, in partnership with Knox’s Office of Communications. The blog may be found at knoxcollegechoir.tumblr.com.