If the University Chorale’s Christmas Concert is the group’s Homecoming of sorts, and their spring break trip to Dublin and Galway is, well, spring break, then the Winter Concert is the fall formal or spring fling without the accompaniment of a mild season.
For the usually more casual Winter Concert, The University Chorale of Boston College gathers in St. Ignatius instead of the more remote Trinity Chapel on Newton campus. The Winter Concert is the bridge, between what the group has done so far in the year and what is on the horizon. It offers a glimpse back to Christmas time and into the gentler times of spring. The concert takes the audience through varied religious hymns from the 17th century through Mozart in the late 18th century and ending with American 20th century pieces.
It’s a different, more casual crowd, mostly students, some who seem to have just wandered in, others grouped in friendly bunches.
The concert began with the older and somewhat illusive pieces “Tollite Hostias” and “Exsultate Justi.” The concert sparked in earnest with three selections from Mozart’s Requiem, which the group featured in its Fall Concert. Mozart’s Requiem is a funeral piece, one of the last things he wrote. It comes in high and mournful before descending with a quiet sense of urgency into a dream-like state. Hearing only three selections from Mozart’s much longer work is like watching three scenes from The Godfather (insert great movie) or three episodes from Friday Night Lights (insert great show). It is a clear credit to the work of both the original composer and Chorale that the selections flow with grace and significantly evokes the original epic.
Chorale eventually moved on from Mozart, though not before saying farewell by performing the last piece Mozart ever produced, the “Ave verum corpus.” They transition the program to what Director John Finney called more springtime fair. Chorale included two selections from Franz Schubert’s Mass in G major. The pieces had a quiet, firm tone before rising with piercing high notes.
After taking a stop on Charles Villiers Stanford’s “Beati quorum via,” the concert moved onto American hymns, first with Alice Parker’s “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal.” The piece featured overlapping “alleluias.” It’s a victory hymn, a piece to accompany an uplifting montage. They followed Randall Thompson’s “Alleluia,” a piece consisting of simply alleluias and a single amen at the end. Thompson’s alleluias were less declarative than Parker’s. It logs blocks of alleluias across Chorale’s formation culminating in grand fashion as Chorale sent screaming alleluias back and forth across the church. The piece eventually folded to a hush and rested on the lone amen, in what was the highlight of the concert.
Finney and Chorale neared the end with three African-American spirituals—“Every Time I Feel Spirit,” “Give Me Jesus,” and “The Battle of Jericho.” The first is a fairly straight forward though enjoyable piece. “Give Me Jesus” was a tender piece that centered understandably on the “Jesus” in the chorus. Chorale sung “Jesus” with serious solemnity. And finally, there’s “Jericho” which in seems to intentionally mimic how the heralds must have spread the word about Joshua’s victory at Jericho. It’s like a really loud game of telephone.
Chorale concluded with Mack Wilber’s arrangement of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The piece seemed like one of the simpler pieces in the concert. It came in high but soon melded both the high and low notes in a soothing melody. It’s an inviting piece, in name yes but in tone as well. Hopefully, as Finney noted, spring will heed its welcome. But for a night in St. Ignatius as more snow fell, winter wasn’t nearly as dark.
Featured Image By Drew Hoo / Heights Editor