On Campus, Arts

BC University Chorale Brings Night of Self-Reflection, Hope, and a Little Dolly Parton

As every row of St. Ignatius Church filled with friends and family on Saturday night, Boston College University Chorale members dressed in black tie faced the audience and began singing “Les Chansons des Roses,” a choir piece about self-love. 

The choir’s voices flowed into a beautiful three-part harmony reminiscent of a midnight mass, setting the tone for the night. As the first song came to an end, Riikka Pietiläinen Caffrey, the first-year director of Chorale, addressed the audience and introduced the concert. 

A night filled with reflection, hope, and a little Dolly Parton, Chorale’s “Rock-A My Soul” performance on Feb. 24 explored American vocal music traditions that helped the audience reflect on themselves and remain optimistic. 

The audience began clapping as Caffrey proceeded into position. The crowded cathedral room grew silent with anticipation. Members of the choir hidden within the crowd stood and began to sing “Wanting Memories” by Sweet Honey in the Rock. 

The group of students made its way to the front of the room with the rest of the choir and the size of the choir grew, the music and vocal power growing as it finished the song. 

Two choir members then addressed the audience to introduce the story of Alice Parker.

“Alice Parker was an American composer who paved the way for female composers in worship music who sought to teach others to see beauty in the world,” they said

The choir once again erupted into song with Parker’s “Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal.” Having passed away recently, the choir sought to remember Parker’s contributions to fighting against social injustice and advocating for peace through spiritual music.

BC professor and composer Shannon Jacob then approached the crowd and introduced a set of spirituals for the concert’s next portion. 

Spirituals, according to Jacob, are now a widely celebrated form of culture originally sung by enslaved African Americans during the 1800s. They were sung during long hours of labor and were known as “work hollers.” 

Jacobs stated these songs were a way to cope with the oppression they faced, sung only “during the most bitter anguish.” A small section of the choir stepped forward behind Jacobs and began singing “God’s Gonna Set This World on Fire.

Chorale’s voices started out joyfully, in contrast with the ominous lyrics of the song. The choir slowly began to fade in volume, getting quieter and quieter as it continued. Just before the sound completely faded, the choir burst into the final line with its loudest volume of the entire performance. The spirituals’ powerful lyrics showcased human resilience. 

Chorale members reminded the audience that “there is always light at the end of the tunnel” as they introduced their last two songs, including “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” by Parton and “Let the River Run” by Carly Simon. 

A Chorale member described exactly why they chose Parton to be a part of their concert, citing her voice, philanthropy, and social activism. Parton’s lyrics reminded the audience that people are never alone. 

As the concert came to a close, Caffrey commended the students involved and offered one last word for the night, reminding the audience that despite the trials and tribulations we may face as a society or individuals, there is hope.

“There is always light as long as we are brave enough to see it, as long as we are brave enough to be it,” Caffrey said. 

February 25, 2024