by SRAVANTI TEKUMALLA ’16
From the otherworldly, contemporary sounds of David L. Brunner to Wellesley class songs of years past, the Wellesley College Choir and Chamber Singers artfully blended old traditions with contemporary pieces for a wonderful performance showcasing the choir’s diverse talents last Saturday. The program, titled “A Choral Treasury: The 40th Annual Baum Concert” featured many of the choirs’ pieces that they performed during their spring tour in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. This concert, the choirs’ final concert of the year, was led by Choir Director Dr. Lisa Graham.
The concert opened with an eclectic repertoire from the Chamber Singers and featured works by Sergei Rachmaninov, Einojuhani Rautavaara, David L. Brunner and Eric Whitacre.
Rautavaara’s “Suite de Lorca” featured dissonant tonalities and a blend of unusual sounds such as intermittent words spoken throughout the piece. Yet these components were subtle with the chamber singers maintaining smooth, beautiful sounds throughout their pieces. They struck a delicate balance, piquing the listener’s interest at hearing something different but not enough to distract from the beautiful melodies present throughout the repertoire.
The highlight of the Chamber Singers’ program was “All I Was Doing Was Breathing,” which featured Rachele Schmiege as soloist. Accompanying them was Chamber Music Society’s Director David Russell on cello and Grammy-nominanted Sandeep Das on tabla, a traditional North Indian instrument. The piece drew from musical traditions in South Asia and the Middle East to paint a passionate story, weaving together Eastern and Western musical elements.
The Wellesley College Choir opened their repertoire in an unusual formation. Instead of standing on risers, the 58-member choir stood in a circle around the audience in Houghton Chapel, accompanying soloists Ismet Uner ’16 and Kellen Kartub ’14 to sing Ēriks Ešenvalds’ “O Salutaris Hostia.” The two stood at the balcony in the back of the chapel, surprising the audience but providing a serene, beautiful moment in the program. The choir chose to sing another piece that also featured a duet of singers, this time with the choir singing at the front of the chapel. “Magnificat” by Christine Donkin featured seniors Emma Rackstraw ’14 and Emily Weddle ’14 singing what was perhaps the most beautiful song in the program. The hushed accompaniment of the choir, much like the rustling of leaves, beautifully complemented the singers’ voices.
However, not every piece during the concert had the air of elegance. Some of the most enjoyable moments in the repertoire came from the humorous pieces inserted throughout the program. Dr. Graham chose “Song of Perfect Propriety” for the program, composed by Dorothy Parker with lyrics by Carol Barnett. These works were originally written for the Cornell University women’s choir with the intent of having songs that were not “solely about heartbreak or how beautiful nature is to women,” Burnett said, defying stereotypes at the time. Dr. Graham proclaimed the songs were “well-suited for our Wellesley choir.” Indeed they were; satirical lyrics and the choir acting as pirates throughout the piece provided an amusing moment that had both the choir and audience smiling.
The choir ended the night with a set of songs that were both nostalgic and lighthearted. As part of a project last semester, Alyssa Kayser-Hirsch ’14, president of the Choir, arranged class songs from years past for the choir to sing. Subject matter ranged from Smith College’s inferiority to cherished Wellesley traditions like Lake Day.
Altogether, the Wellesley College Choir and Chamber singers performed a lovely program to end their year.