Glee Club performs free winter concert at Top of the Hop

by Katherine Schreiber | 2/7/16 6:02pm

The Hopkins Center for the Arts rang with music on Sunday afternoon as the Dartmouth Glee Club performed their “Winter Panorama” concert at the Top of the Hop. The group performed a range of songs in Spanish, English, Latin and Russian.

The concert was presented as a preview for the Glee Club’s spring concert, in which the group will perform the full “All Night Vigil” by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. Written in 1915, the composition contains 15 short movements drawn from a Russian Orthodox ceremony. The Glee Club performed the sixth, seventh and ninth movements of the composition on Sunday.

“I chose three movements from Rachmaninoff that were descriptive of what the whole piece is like,” Glee Club director Louis Burkot said.

In addition to “All Night Vigil,” the program also included a Spanish song and more traditional American compositions. Burkot said that he wanted to include songs that would work with the range and style of “All Night Vigil,” which has a low bass part.

“I wanted to do things that would fit in with that kind of range, so I tried to pick songs that would require a low bass,” Burkot said.

He said that he also wanted to select songs that required the students to sing in divided parts. While most choral compositions have four parts, many of the songs that the club sang on Sunday had twelve to sixteen parts.

“I wanted to do all the things I’ve never done before,” Burkot said.

The concert opened with the song “Amor de Mi Alma” by composer Z. Randall Stroope. Burkot said that after the Glee Club’s December break tour in Spain, he wanted to add more Spanish songs to the group’s repertoire. Although Stroope is an American composer, the words “Amor de Mi Alma” — which translate to “Love of My Soul” — are from a 16th century Spanish poem.

The program also included the American song “Elijah Rock,” a traditional spiritual arranged by Moses Hogan. Burkot said “Elijah Rock” was the most challenging song in the program due to its length, range and complex parts. He said that the song was originally meant for an orchestra.

“We’re singing the parts instead of the violins playing them,” Burkot said.

Glee Club soprano Ann Carpenter ’19 said that one of the biggest challenges of preparing for this performance was the limited time frame, since the singers had less than six weeks to prepare.

“Our director doesn’t like to have the performance after Winter Carnival,” Carpenter said. “So we were a little crunched for time.”

Jimmy Ragan ’16, who sings in the bass/baritone section, also said that it was difficult to learn 50 minutes of music in less than six weeks.

“The last week leading up to the concert was really rushed,” Ragan said.

Ragan said that another major challenge of this concert was learning to sing songs in another language, especially Russian.

“It’s a challenge just to actually be able to say the Russian and speak it well,” Ragan said. “We haven’t quite done that yet. I think the biggest challenge going forward is being more true to singing in Russian.”

He added that it can be distracting when singers aren’t confident in their pronunciation and have to constantly look down at their music.

Carpenter said that the singers had been watching YouTube videos to try to learn the proper pronunciation of the Russian words. She said it was especially hard to learn Russian because Russian letters aren’t pronounced like English letters.

“It’s not intuitive,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said that her favorite song was “Ave Maria,” the sixth movement of “All Night Vigil”, which the group also sang when they were on tour in December.

“It’s really pretty,” Carpenter said. “It’s one of my favorites.”

The male and female singers split at the end of the concert and each group sang their own song. The female section sang “Peter Gray,” an American ballad about a young man who dies after going West in search of his fiancée. The male section sang “Demon in My View,” a composition by Jeffery Hovarth which takes its lyrics from the Edgar Allen Poe poem “Alone.”

Regan, who introduced “Demon in My View” to Burkot, said the piece was one of his favorites.

“Those low rumbly chords sort of pierce your soul,” Ragan said of the song.

Ragan said he also liked Samuel Barber’s “Agnus Dei,” again mentioning the low chords.

“Angus Dei” is a vocal composition of Barber’s renowned “Adagio for Strings.” Its lyrics come from the “Agnus Dei,” the fifth section of the ordinary of the Catholic Mass.

At the end of the concert, Burkot asked the audience if the club could sing one more song that was not on the program. The group then broke into the American spiritual “Deep River,” and several audience members sang along quietly.

The Glee Club’s spring concert, in which they will sing the whole of Rachmaninoff’s “All Night Vigil,” will take place on Sunday, May 8.

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