Spectrum, Chamber Singers host captivating vocal performance

A large audience filled Doty Hall on Friday Oct. 16 for the Spectrum Women’s Ensemble and Geneseo Chamber Singers’ first concert of the year. The concert was held in honor of President Denise Battles’ inauguration and brought students and professors alike to hear classical pieces conducted by Amy Cochrane and music department chair Gerard Floriano ‘84. Cochrane—the Spectrum Women’s Ensemble director—started off with Mozart’s “Three Alleluia Rounds” with piano accompaniment from Wan-Lin Chuang. A musical technique consisting of multiples voices singing one melody at different times, rounds were an overarching commonality between all of the pieces that night.

Cochrane and Chuang briefly joined the singers on stage—along with vocal coach and piano accompanist Linda Boianova—to sing the second song of the night: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s “Salve Regina.” The song is a cry to the Virgin Mary and there is a reference to singers as “children of Eve,” accentuated by the fact that the choir is composed only of women.

During Jacques Offenbach’s “Baracarolle,” seniors Kaitlyn DiResta and Samantha Clowes stood out by singing a brief duet together. A myriad of duets followed in Spectrum’s final three-part song, Nira Chen’s “Dodi Li” arranged by well-known conductor Doreen Rao. The duets were sung in different vocal ranges, showcasing Spectrum’s wide variety of talent. Freshmen and sophomores were paired with upperclassmen, proving that even the younger members of the group are able to hold their own. Duets included freshman Mackenzie Hintze paired with Clowes and freshman Jessica Steklof paired with DiResta.

After the Spectrum Women’s Ensemble came the Geneseo Chamber Singers, a co-ed choral group directed by Floriano. Floriano explained to the audience that the first two songs were very personal—they held fond memories for him.

The first song was Z. Randall Stroope’s “The Pasture,” a musical rendition of Robert Frost’s poem of the same title and Johannes Brahms’ “Motet, Op. 74 No. 1 (Warum ist das Licht gegeben)” followed. The latter is a four-part German song that weaves together excerpts of the Bible and Martin Luther.

Of the motet—which is a short musical composition of a sacred text—Floriano explained it is “a deep text grappling with death,” but advised his students and the audience to consider the notion that “perhaps death isn’t death but is a transformation.” The audience could see the truth of these wise words when reading the English translation of the piece that was provided in the program.

The lyrics of “Motet” discuss a longing for death after a long and grueling life. The song included verses from the book of Job such as, “Why has light been given to the weary of soul/and life to the troubled hearts? Why?/They wait for death and it doesn’t come … Those who almost rejoice and are happy/That they achieve the grave.” There were also lines from Luther, such as “As God had promised me: Death has become my sleep.”

In true Geneseo Chamber tradition, the concert ended with a spiritual song—although Floriano explained that this was one that has never been sung before by the Chamber Singers. Arranged by renowned African-American composer, pianist and arranger Moses Hogan, “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” was a refreshing and upbeat ending that got the singers moving as they stomped and swayed along to the song’s energy. Soloists featured in this performance included juniors Jennifer Bender, Benjamin Reiner, Richard James and Jordan Bachmann.

You don’t have to be an expert in classical music or even a spiritual individual to appreciate a Spectrum Women’s Ensemble and Geneseo Chamber Singers showcase. Listening to a variety of voices working together to present dynamic pieces was a treat that many here on campus do not get to hear on a daily basis.