Like Music to Their Ears

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Photo By: Daniel Holmes

Terry Concert Hall was filled with an air of welcoming spirits on Nov. 3 as Jacksonville University’s choir program, led by Timothy Snyder, Ph.D., serenaded the audience with a diverse selection of songs, from African spirituals to contemporary church motets. The concert was entitled Songs and Sweets Soiree, a blend of music in a Parisian atmosphere and delicious desserts that followed the event. The evening began with Joan Davis, Ph.D., representative of Jacksonville’s sister city Nantes, thanking everyone for coming to support Jacksonville’s choir program as they begin to prepare for a choir tour through France.

The event was in-part a fundraiser for the cost of the trip, which will be the first that the program has done in 20 years, with the goal of raising half the money for the entire choir to go. Donations were accepted at the event and no matter how much was donated, everybody received their money’s worth that night.

As Dr. Joanne left the stage the hall was immediately filled with the sound of a sea of voices as the University Singers filed in through the isles singing Freedom Come by Ben Allaway. It had the joy and spirituality as the chorus chanted Freedom Come, Hallelujah which gave the audience a feeling of a warm welcome. The next two pieces were more of a somber quality, Kyrie by JU’s Dr. Schirmer and Ubi caritas by Ola Gjeilo, which were church motets composed in the last few decades. They gave a contrast to the first piece in that they were more of a calm spirituality with a soft and smooth sound quality.

The University Singers ended their section of the concert with an American spiritual Ain’a that Good News arranged by William Dawson and Blackbird by John Lennon and Paul McCartney arranged by Gary Rosen. The first had a robust and powerful quality with a more upbeat pulse with rich bass and tenor lines. Blackbird, a well known Beatles tune, again contrasted the powerful piece before it with a more jazzy arrangement that used the voices as the instrument parts. On top of the mellow voices came the soloists, Daniel Giachetto, Latonio Nichols, Ciaron Sontag and Jamil-Rahman who improvised their own lines with different interpretations of the chorus or just skat singing.

The next section featured Professor Kimberly Beasley, soprano, as she sang different songs of love to the audience. The pieces depicted opening the heart to love, receiving love, observing love and being observed by love.  The section featured three songs by French composers that used piano accompaniment and the style of singing to portray the different types of love. The styles switched between powerful and passionate to somber and smooth contrasting each piece with the next. The last song was a modern music theatre piece called “Amor” by William Bolcom that told the story of a woman who is so beautiful and adored that everyone she meets shouts “Amor!” This gave the audience a feeling of light-hearted laughter that complimented the feeling of love as the theme.

The men’s choir continued the humorous atmosphere from “Amor” with “Me” from “Beauty and the Beast” with Alec Hadden’s interpretation of Gaston, the arrogant hunter who tries to convince Belle to marry him. The next piece was a return to the serious interpretation of love with “A Red, Red, Rose” by James Mulholand with soft harmonies that supported the text “ my love is like a sweet melody” sung by the tenors. The relaxed atmosphere was contrasted by their last song “In Taberina” by Carl Orff which showed the fierce love for the academy with fourteenth century Latin galliard text. It was powerful and celebratory with feelings of comradory that would be typical of college students on a Friday night.

The feeling of love for academia was then carried by the women’s choir with “Three Little Maids” by Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert that featured Maggie Moore, Brittany Nickell and Jordyn Jones as three young cheerful school girls twirling parasols who just left school. The concert took a more serious tone as the choir featured Samantha Wicklund singing in Estonian folksong “Lauliku lapsepoli” which was a song of the remembrance of childhood with the choir singing in the style of community circle singing that gave the piece a feeling of a warm embrace. Then that warm embrace became fueled by the fire of an American spiritual “Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold Me Down” which characterized the female empowerment with a sense of marching forward despite obstacles.

The concert was concluded with the entire choir marching in singing a Zimbabwe greeting song “Sorida” which brought the audience together as it had before, with a feeling of welcome. The choir chanted Sorida as individual singers came out to tell the audience to be welcomed and “wave to your brothers and sisters.” The concert overall embodied the feeling of a voyage overseas that is welcomed with love and brotherhood upon arrival.

“It was my favorite concert so far,” said Tiffany Thomas. “Great energy, especially at the end.”

“I was impressed” said Will Baxley.

With the trip to France in the spring, the choir is trying hard to make the experience created in the concert a reality. Dr. Snyder said he wants to do this trip so students can have a better understanding of how small our world is and that music binds us together.

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