The BYU Singers, Concert Choir, Men’s Chorus and Women’s Chorus present an evening of hymns and sacred works
For those growing tired of the chilly temperatures and dreary days of winter, the BYU choirs have a remedy: music to warm the heart and uplift the soul.
Winter Choirfest is a celebration of choral music, a tradition that showcases four BYU choirs in one memorable evening of performances. Although pandemic restrictions prevent the choirs from performing live this year, the show will go on via streaming on February 12.
The BYU Singers, under director Andrew Crane, will perform “Salvator Mundi” from Requiem by Herbert Howells. Howells was a British composer who wrote this moving piece as a personal expression of grief after losing his young son to polio in 1935.
“Deep Peace” by Elaine Hagenberg, with text from a traditional Irish blessing, will feature pianist Lindsay Bastian and a string quartet of BYU School of Music students. The program’s third and final piece will be “Fiesta” from Visiones del Llano by Cristian Grases, where the choir mimics the sounds of Venezuelan folk instruments.
The choir is leaning into the livestream medium by adding a unique element that will enhance the audience experience. “This will be the first time we will show subtitles on screen during a Winter Choirfest,” Crane said.
The Concert Choir has three pieces of its own planned, representative of larger works to be performed at a solo concert later this semester. “It’s a little showcase of what’s to come,” said conductor Brent Wells.
With a semester of pandemic safety measures already under their belts, students can focus more of their energy on making music. “We’re old hats with distancing and safety measures,” Wells said. “They almost feel invisible now.”
“Jubilate Deo” by Peter Anglea is inspired by Psalm 100 and features an asymmetric meter and rhythmic vocal ostinatos.
“Invitation to Love” is based on a poem by 19th-century African-American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar, expressing the many faces of love. The Concert Choir will close with the Primary song “The Church of Jesus Christ,” arranged by graduate student CJ Madsen.
The Men’s Chorus, also under the direction of Wells, has planned a program that will include repertoire centered on American revival meetings and hymns. “The songs have a foot in the past, but are also relevant today,” Wells said.
The group will open with a revival hymn, “Zion’s Walls,” followed by “Benedictus,” an excerpt from the Mass in F Major op. 190 by German composer Josef Rheinberger. The choir will close with “There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight,” a traditional song made popular by the men’s ensemble Cantus.
Per Unitatem Fortitudo is the new Men’s Chorus motto chosen by Wells for 2020-2021 and beyond. It’s Latin for “Through Unity, Strength.” Wells feels it is especially relevant this year. “It’s a truism that applies to nearly every aspect of our lives,” he said. “The members support each other; they pray for each other. It’s a beacon in the darkness to keep us focused.”
The Women’s Chorus will present a set intended “to offer reassurance, peace and comfort in uncertain and challenging times,” said conductor Sonja Poulter. “This is a huge undertaking, as we will have only had nine rehearsals before the performance.”
The choir will begin with Andrea Ramsey’s “Truth.” The message of the piece: you are beautiful, you are enough, you must believe in that, believe in truth. Elaine Hagenberg’s “I will be a Child of Peace” follows, an arrangement of an old Shaker tune and a prayer of peace and purity. The final number is Daniel Kallman’s setting of the spiritual “My God Is a Rock in a Weary Land.” “It’s a powerful declaration that, as the scriptures teach us, God is a God of miracles and our rock, especially in a year like 2020,” Poulter said.
“The world has been so disrupted; making music has been tough for so many people,” Wells said. “BYU choirs can continue to perform and make an impact thanks to our livestreamed performances, and our audiences appreciate the positivity.”