Music Department honors sacred works

Campus choirs and University Wind Ensemble perform in spring concert

Faith E. Pinho

It’s concert season at Washington and Lee and the music department kicked off the spring line-up with a show last Tuesday entitled, “The Sacred in Music.”

W&L women’s chorus Cantatrici, the Men’s Glee Club and University Singers captured the attention of a large audience inside Wilson Hall for the first half of the show. After intermission, the University Wind Ensemble’s performed David Holsinger’s, “The Easter Symphony.”

Shane Lynch, director of the university’s various choir groups, introduced the show as a reverent celebration of sacred music.

“80 to 90 percent of choral music that was ever written is sacred,” Lynch said.

The program included songs from a variety of religious traditions, including a Jewish selection “Shiru L’Adonai” and a piece written in Sanskrit, “Gate gate,” which alludes to the Buddhist religion.

“[We are] not tokening each faith tradition,” Lynch said on his decision to portray a wide range of music.

The first half of the program specially featured several students. Madeleine Sullivan, ’16, directed Cantatrici’s performance of “Eatnemen Vuelie” – a piece that many in the audience recognized as the opening to popular Disney movie Frozen.

Olivia Shaves, ’17, then conducted the Men’s Glee Club through a rendition of “Heyr himna smiour,” a traditional Icelandic hymn.

Two of the songs on the evening’s line-up included student-written compositions. The Men’s Glee Club gave a moving performance of “We Wander, This Voyage,” written by Jack Powers, ’15. A combined men and women’s chorus sang “The Lamb,” by Thomas Day, ’15.

“I thought it was exceptional to see such a talented group perform my music,” Day said after the performance. “It really brought it to life…it was beautiful to see.”

“The Lamb” is a poem by William Blake written during the Romanticism period that Day adapted into a lullaby.

“[Blake] is painting the beautiful innocence of the lamb, which is [an image] rooted in God,” Day said. “I knew that I wanted something that was not explicitly religious but that could still show off that sacred nature.”

Students in the audience expressed their admiration for peer composers Day and Powers.

“It was incredible, breathtaking. I’m so in awe of the talent at W&L,” Melina Knabe, ’17, said. “It gives it a different feeling when you know that it’s a student composed piece.”

After intermission, the University Wind Ensemble joined the University Singers onstage for 36 minutes of  “The Easter Symphony,” featuring music department head Gregory Parker on a baritone solo.

The combined ensemble performed two out of the three movements of “The Easter Symphony,” a composition that David Holsinger wrote as a musical narration of the story of Jesus Christ.

“[It celebrates] the holiest week of the church year,” professor of music Timothy Gaylard said when he introduced the ensemble.

During the piece, audience members said they experienced a range of emotions, from uneasiness, to horror, to hope. Toward the end of the second movement of “The Deathtree,” an orchestra member on stage took a hammer and pounded a nail into a log, simulating the sound of Christ being nailed to the cross.

Lynch, Parker and Chad Reep, director of the University Wind Ensemble, received a standing ovation after the performance.

Before concluding the concert, Parker presented Reep with a plaque for his three years of service to the W&L music department.

“Chad Reep is conducting his valedictory concert,” Parker said. “He has brought great enthusiasm and great joy to the music department.”

Reep has taught the University Wind Ensemble for three years as an adjunct professor. In the fall term, a full-time professor will replace him.