Poetic sensibilities resonate at choral concert

The Geneseo Chamber Singers and Spectrum Women’s Ensemble attracted enough people to fill every pew, and then some, in the Central Presbyterian Church for their choral concert Sunday March 3.

“The chamber and spectrum concerts in the churches always draw out a lot of people,” professor of music and conductor of both choirs Gerry Floriano said. “I think people like to go out and hear the high caliber of performance from the students, as well as a wide variety of music.”

Throughout the afternoon, the two groups performed a series of culturally eclectic pieces, as well as a host of inspirational folk and classical songs.

The evening began with Spectrum singing the Hebrew piece “Al Shlosha D’Varim” with an extraordinary solo by freshman Rachel Wilson. It followed with a series of other inspirational pieces including, “See! Lovely Day is Dawning,” by Thomas Morley; “Il Pleure Dans Mon Coeur,” by Claude Debussy and “I Am Not Yours,” by David N. Childs with text by Sara Teasdale.

Spectrum also performed the moving poem “A Prayer for Peace” by Vietnamese poet Thich Nhat Nanh. The event’s concert program detailed the backstory of the piece, explaining that it was originally used in the 1965 “Don’t Shoot Your Own Brother” campaign as an appeal for armistice and peace in South Vietnam, and later arranged for a choir by P.F. Tillen.

The Chamber Singers also had a rather varied repertoire, including a performance of Robert Shaw and Alice Parker’s arrangement of “My God is a Rock,” from the African-American spiritual, which featured a solo by sophomore John Turner. The energetic piece earned the choir an enthusiastic standing ovation at the end of the afternoon.

“I love the high-belting stuff,” Turner said. “I think my specialty in voice is gospel. I never audition for a solo, but when I heard the song was a gospel piece, I thought, ‘You know what? I’ll try this.’”

The Chamber Singers also performed Craig Hella Johnson’s arrangement of Eliza Gilkyson’s haunting composition, “Requiem,” which was originally written after the devastating tsunami that hit South Asia in 2004 as a song of comfort to all those affected.

There were a number of other harmonically breathtaking classical pieces performed as well, including “The Road Home” by Stephen Paulus, with a solo from senior Shelley Massachi and “Alleluia” by Eric Whitacre, with solos from sophomore Jane Coons and senior David Keyes.

According to Floriano, even though there was no intentional theme for the program, he was interested in the pervasive meanings of justice, truth and harmony that the pieces portrayed.

“I guess it was kind of a program about peace,” Floriano said. “I don’t generally program concerts with a theme, but it kind of worked out that way, which was wonderful.”

“These are universal issues with many contexts, and I guess there was a kind of theme that came out of that,” he added.