Music lovers gathered in Montgomery Hall’s concert room on Nov. 19th for two performances (one at 4:00p.m. and one at 8:00) by St. Mary’s Choir and Chamber Singers. Larry Vote, the choir director, prefaced the concert by stating that the Chamber Singers, with many new members, would “try their wings” during their first performance of the semester.
The Chamber Singers, dressed in black suits and dresses, began the concert with two songs by Claudio Monteverdi, “Ecco mormorar l’onde” and “La bocca onde.” Before each song, two singers stepped forward. One singer read the lyrics in their original Italian, and the other singer read their English translation.
This was done, according to Vote, so the audience would enjoy the “pleasure of hearing [the lyrics] in Italian” before hearing them sung. Both the Italian and English lyrics were in the concert’s program so that the audience could follow along during the performance.
The Monteverdi songs were sung a capella, with nothing but the Chamber Singers’ voices echoing through the room. The angelic melodies of the songs were appropriate for the lyrics, which spoke of frilly things like roses, birds, and ambrosia.
Orchestra director Jeffrey Silberschlag accompanied on trumpet for the next song, “Break Forth into Joy,” by David Pinkham. Unlike the sweet serenity of the previous songs, “Break Forth” featured strong bursts of energy.
The next song in the Singers’ repertoire was and is very close to the heart of St. Mary’s. “Blessing of the Boats,” a poem by former St. Mary’s professor and poet Lucille Clifton (which can be seen in the Campus Center on the way to the Great Room), is now in musical form.
Alumnus Scott Humburg, ‘06, set Clifton’s poetry to music in a song of the same name. After the world premiere of “Blessing the Boats,” Humburg, who was in the audience, was met with a well-deserved extended ovation.
“The Road Home” and “Hymn to the Eternal Flame” featured commendable solos by sopranos Ava Toppo, a first-year, and Kristina Schiller, a senior, both of whom showcased their high vocal ranges.
The Chamber Singers’ last song without the choir was the lively “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord,” a traditional spiritual.
After a short intermission, the choir joined the Chamber Singers on the risers for the last three songs. Monteverdi’s lengthy “Beatus Vir” was sung with a stately and measured pace, with a trumpet duo of Jeffrey and Zach Silberschlag accompanying.
Two sections from Johannes Brahms’ formidable “Ein deutsches Requiem” concluded the concert with class and grace.
First-year student and audience member Jessica Paguirigan said, “The music was moving and touching, I will definitely go to their next concert!” About the concert experience, choir member and sophomore Peter Robertson said, “I loved the opportunity to sing one of my favorite requiems and I can’t wait until we sing the entire requiem next spring.”