With light, upbeat harmonies, the Academy Chorus and The Fidelio Society began the concert with their rendition of “The Farthest Field” by David Dodson.
The concert, titled “Where We Belong,” was held this past Saturday in Cochran Chapel during Family Weekend. Conducted by Abbey Siegfried, School Organist and Instructor in Music. the concert featured pieces by Grammy Award-winning choral conductor, composer, and arranger Craig Hella Johnson, who visited campus this week.
“The underlying themes of all of the texts I chose for the concert were a sense of belonging, community, finding a place where we are connected. All of the texts spoke to this — most directly, ‘The Farthest Field,’ ” wrote Siegfried in an email to The Phillipian.
Students also performed “Gitanjali Chants,” a piece composed by Johnson. The song began with a smooth, deep melody of minor chords and rumbling hums. Soon, the piece swelled with the harmonies of all the singers.
“There were a few challenges in terms of matching our pitch and tempo together so that we were able to flow in unison. Even though these challenges were numerous across several songs, I feel like over time we were able to work alongside each other and complement each other so that by the time of the concert we were working as four united groups working in harmony,” said Chorus member Max de Saint-Exupery ’20.
The concert also featured a performance by The Fidelio Society and soloist Denise Taveras ’21 singing “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child,” arranged by Johnson. The performance began with a steady harmony until Taveras’s voice pierced through the melodies. Building slowly to a climax, the chorus soon joined Taveras, intensifying in volume and harmony.
“Getting the chance to come together and work on the pieces together was really important towards creating our final music together, and I think it was really important that we met and spent time with each other and got to know each other so that we could perform music together,” said Fidelio and Chorus member Abigail Taylor ’20.
The concert ended as a tribute to Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was the victim of a hate crime in 1998, with the song “All Of Us,” also composed by Johnson. The performance consisted of swelling cascades of harmonies as the chorus sung about hope and bringing each other up. The chorus broke down to slow, steady melodies during the middle of the piece, only to surge back with power and volume. The song was taken from the concert-length work “Considering Matthew Shepard” and reminded the audience about the importance of unity and friendship.
“I do think the Family Weekend concert went so well. Both Fidelio and Chorus had their ‘best-yet’ moments with each of the pieces we performed. Why? Because they were fully present in the moment, they trusted and connected with each other as singers and human beings, they enjoyed performing together, and they got the deeper meaning of the pieces we were singing,” wrote Siegfried.
Audience member Max Fang ’22 said, “[Siegfried] talked about how people used different emotions to try to give hope, and I thought a lot the songs really conveyed that positive emotion.”