Tuesday, February 2, 2010

St. Olaf Review, Part 1

The St. Olaf Choir concert at Severance Hall last night was an evening of beautiful and meaningful music. I hope that some of the people who were there will join me in sharing some thoughts about the concert for the next few days.

My first comment is a bit of a confession. Despite all my praise of Bach here lately and the recent discussion on the blog, my least favorite piece of the whole concert would have to be the Bach cantata. It's not that it wasn't beautiful. It simply couldn't compare to the rest of the music, in my opinion. It reminded me that not every piece of music can reach every person.

At the other extreme, one of the high moments of the night, I felt, was the composition by Jeffrey Ames titled "For the Sake of Our Children." Because I had watched part of the Grammy Awards ceremony the night before, I immediately noticed the stark contrast between this piece and Michael Jackson's "Earth Song," despite their similar themes. It's like comparing Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga National Park to Niagara Falls - they are both beautiful, but one holds only a fraction of the power and depth of the other.

The choir sang the beautiful lyrics of this intercessory prayer so bravely that the music is still in mind today:

O Lord, we pray for Your justice and peace.
People rise up, pour out your hearts unto the Lord.
May He send His wondrous love o'er all the earth,
And grant us peace that this world cannot give.
Let there be peace, never-ending peace.

O God, save the children.
Shelter them with Your loving arms.
May Your angels guard and protect them we pray.
O Lord, we pray!

Overall, the most wonderful thing about the group in general is their deep musicality and unity. Their consonants are crisp, their vowels perfectly formed, and their dynamic contrasts and phrasing give amazing vitality to the music. That total commitment to quality and to their message is what elevates the choir's music to the sublime level of beautiful prayer that we experienced last night.


  1. 1. I had to close my eyes after a while because the hand-holding/swaying was making me seasick.

    2. It has been a long time since I have heard such "in tune" singing. It was refreshing for a day to day high school choir director.

    3. Wish I had a recording of the Enosh. I love that piece, except when we sing it we have seven singers and a piano, not 80 singers and a 10 piece string ensemble. It was like butter.

    4. With the exception of the Perisan piece, I felt the programming to be a bit homogeneous. Is that usual for them or did this tour just work out that way? It makes me wonder if my own programming is diverse enough every time.

  2. The committment to excellence is such a huge part of this ensemble that I think it bears further comment. We will see and marvel at similar committment in the Olympics next week. Personally, we can ask ourselves if we have similar committments. Family, God, the good of our fellow humans, etc.