Glorious music filled Sage Chapel Saturday night when the Cornell University Glee Club and Chorus performed their much anticipated concert The Peaceable Kingdom. Parents, students, faculty, alumni and members of the community pushed their way into the chapel to experience the outstanding talents of two of Cornell’s most treasured musical groups as they performed together. And what a performance it was. The beautifully lit Sage Chapel and its magical atmosphere was for once overshadowed by the tremendous voices as they brilliantly and flawlessly gave a program comparable to no other.
The night began with “Locus Iste,” one of the two motets performed that night. Motets originated in 13th century France, an improvement on the older Clausa or choral chant. The motet added words to the upper voice used in liturgical music. “Locus Iste” and “Ave Maria,” both by Anton Bruckner and though very different from the rest of the program they gave the audience a true taste of what was to come; a night of outstanding music.
“The Peaceable Kingdom,” by Randall Thompson is a deeply religious work with a collection of eight parts, each sung with a truly unique style and mood. While each part was different in many aspects, the work came together with a smooth and intense flavor, though it was unlike many traditional liturgical songs that I have heard in the past. The piece, though traditional, had a surprising edge. This was especially apparent in the second part of the song as the Glee Club and Chorus echoed each other in a very powerful and passionate chant. The song was slow and abrupt in parts, and the melody was often overshadowed by these forceful chants giving the piece both an overwhelming and morbid tone. The chant was especially compelling as a result of the amazing range of voices from both the Glee Club and the Chorus. The soft tone brought by the tenor and alto voices balanced with the more dynamic soprano and bass creating an effect that could not have been accomplished had the Glee Club and Chorus not sung the piece together. The Glee Club and Chorus did justice to the song, giving it the power that it needed to make a lasting impression on the entire audience. “The Peaceable Kingdom” spoke especially of the wrath of God, this message adding to the compelling fervor of the piece. The work was sung with great skill and dexterity, it was obvious throughout this piece how talented these two prestigious groups are and how large their combined vocal range is. The depth of the piece was overwhelming.
The last piece, “Psalm 90”, by Charles Ives, paralleled the mood of “The Peaceable Kingdom” as it also spoke of the fear of God. The song moved at the same slow pace, yet the Glee Club and Chorus gave a fabulous performance providing a rendition that was both moving and technically brilliant. while accompanied by William Cowdery’s organ, and percussion by Michael Hurlbut, Megan Lemley, and Robert Whalen. The piece was also accompanied by the tenor trio of Jevon Bindman, Jonathan Hampton, and Daniel Kim, and soloist Ellen Yuh, who all gave brief but great performances.
Professor Emeritus Thomas Sokol returned as conductor of the Cornell University Glee Club and Chorus this spring, providing true expertise that cannot be matched. The concert was also conducted by the accomplished Assistant Conductor John Rowehl.
The abilities of both the Glee Club and the Chorus, were obvious from the performance as they lived up to both their outstanding reputations.
The combined group performs annually during Commencement, Convocation, and the Baccalaureate, as well as appearences at weekend choral festivals and off-campus retreats. Chorus has established itself as one of the nation’s outstanding collegiate women’s choruses and Glee Club has become one of the premier men’s choirs in the world. Both the Glee Club and the Chorus travel extensively throughout the country and to other countries over the summer and throughout the year to share their talents with other schools, strengthen alumni ties and share musical experiences both in and out of concert halls.
This concert gave me a taste of what I have been missing and introduced me to the extraordinary presence of these two groups on campus. While each group works separately throughout the year, they came together to form a cohesive assemblage of voices that I was proud to be able to experience. If you were not able to catch this concert, I highly recommend attending one of the concerts in the spring, as this concert was genuinely memorable.
Archived article by Amanda Hodes