Photo by EMMA GROSSBAUER
On October 27, 2019, the Alma College Choirs and Alma Symphony Orchestra presented a collaborative concert featuring the famous Mozart piece “Vesperae solennes de confessore” and Dvorak’s New World Symphony.
“It’s been a long learning process for both choirs and the orchestra,” said Bennett Dubois (‘19). Dubois participates in both the Alma Choir and Orchestra, making his experience with what the choirs are calling “Mini-Masterworks,” a unique experience.
This concert is being called “Mini-Masterworks” because of its similarity to the Masterworks concert that the choir and orchestra programs put on in Heritage Center every spring. “I think this concert eases new singers into how these combined concerts work,” said Rachel Whipple (‘20). “It can be hard to get used to singing with an orchestra, so singing a shorter piece with them in the fall helps to get us comfortable with the performance.”
“The orchestra adds a sense of authenticity you can’t get with just the piano,” said Zachary Everly (‘21). “It would’ve been very unlikely to walk into a 1780’s performance and hear this work without the orchestra. Both the Chorus and Orchestra have great parts, but putting them together is what makes it a truly fabulous piece.”
The Mozart piece contains 2 solo quartets, as well as a featured soprano vocalist, Victoria Walker. Walker teaches vocal lessons at Alma College, and sometimes Dr. Nichols brings her in to sing some of the extensive solo work for performances.
“One of the beauties of vocal music is that we have text to help us tell a story,” said Everly. “While the text is not in English, it is still the choir’s job to tell the story. Being in a quartet is an honor, but also a big responsibility. It is our job to continue to tell the story on our own when the choir stops singing. It is more crucial that we know the details of what we are singing because there is nobody to help us.”
The willingness to sing classical music is small for some students, but others believe that these pieces should still continue to be performed. “I feel like programming these pieces is important because we want to keep deeply rooted musical traditions alive,” said Everly. “All of the music we see today exists because this music existed. A beauty of writing music is that it can never be ‘proven wrong’ like some scientific ideas persay, only expanded upon and changed and adapted for culture of the time.”
These pieces have been around for as long as performing ensembles have, and the emphasis on them by Alma College directors have an influence on how the modern student views this classical music literature.
The choirs perform next for their Festival of Carols concert Dec. 7-8, and the groups combine again for Masterworks in April of 2020.