Griffin Sendek | Staff Writer
Saturday, Oct. 20, the Mary Pappert School of Music presented a student choir performance in the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. The performance was titled There Was A Time and featured three groups: the Pappert Women’s Chorale, University Singers and Voices of Spirit. There Was A Time was made possible by the Director of Choral Activities Caron Daley and Conductor Joseph Stuligross.
The cathedral was nearly full at the time I arrived. Though mostly an older crowd, likely family members of the performers, it was also littered with small handfuls of students throughout.
The performance began from the back, a soloist from the Pappert Women’s Chorale walking down the aisle. She was shortly joined by the chorale’s other members slowly parading from the back two by two before eventually finding their place on the risers. As the last member found her spot, all their voices came together in unity. As they continued to sing “Bruremarsj fra Valsøyfjord” (Wedding March from Valsøyfjord), the song gave the effect of a series of bell chimes and was a rather pleasant opener.
The songs the Women’s Chorale sang followed a progression from the mellow and somber vibe of the songs “Ad Admore” and “O Vos Omnes” to the faster and more upbeat “Lift thine eyes.” Culminating in their fifth and final song “Gloria,” which was the first to add piano into the mix, was by far the most cheerful and joyous song.
At the conclusion of “Gloria,” the audience gave booming applause.
Next up were the University Singers, Duquesne University’s newest choir, which is open not only to men and women music majors, but non-majors, DU alumni, DU Faculty and staff and local community members. Dr. Laurel Willingham-McLain, Director of Faculty Development & Teaching Excellence, has been a member of the University Singers since it began. She told me that one of the best parts of the University Singers is how the variety of ages and experience in the group creates a unique and different kind of sound.
The University Singers opened with a piece by Bob Chilcott, “Five days that changed the world”. This piece is split into five separate pieces, one for each day. For this performance, only three of the five were chosen to be played—”The Invention of Printing,” “The Abolition of Slavery” and “The First Powered Flight.” The songs try to capture the certain feeling of the event, the best recreation being in “The First Powered Flight” which had an appropriately more floaty and airy feel to the words.
The choir changed the mood back to a more somber feel for their fourth song “The Road Not Taken” by Frostiana which was much slower, quieter and had a greater emphasis on piano. They did not end on a low for their final song, “Wanting Memories, from Crossings” a high point of the performance. The song follows an arc delineating the role memories play in somebody’s life: It begins with a solo, slowly joined by other female singers as the men provide background hums.
The Voices of Spirit entered as the University Singers left.
The Voices of Spirit by far had the most varied of performances with a partial biblical focus. The first song, “Haec dies,” was very multifaceted with a lot going on at once before unifying. The entire performance was named after the second song on the list: “There Was a Time.” The piece is a combination of multiple pieces coming together, with a heavy emphasis on repetition; many of the same lyrics are repeated over and over in many different pitches and tones. The next song, “Pseudo-Yoik” sounding much like a sort of tribal chant, was by far the strangest and most different song of the performance.
The final two songs returned back to the biblical theme. When David Heard went through highs of loud excitement to lows of slow and subdued. Closing the show, “The Battle of Jericho,” the mixture of the men repeating “the Battle of Jericho” in a low, deep voice as the women sang the story of the battle created a captivating and fun listening experience.
All three choirs performed excellently, delivering their best and showcasing the vocal talent that is found at this university.
After the final note played, the audience gave a standing ovation.