My Love Affair With Choral Music

It’s been a while since a music post, so I thought I’d dedicate today’s blog post to one of my favorite genres of classical music: choral. I am very lucky to have been born and raised in a state that not only highly values classical music (well, at least we used to – I’ll avoid getting up on my soap box regarding the current MN Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra lockouts), but many different types. Specifically, Minnesota is a large participant in the Lutheran Choral Tradition (I capitalized it because I think it deserves it…even if grammatically incorrect :)) which was popularized by F. Melius Christiansen. We have some wonderful private Lutheran colleges with highly praised choral programs which have continued this tradition, including my alma mater, Concordia College. I was lucky enough to get to sing with the Concordia Choir under the direction of Dr. Rene Clausen for three years, and they were some of the most rewarding years of my life thus far (and most likely to come).

Choir-Tour-Graphic

Current Concordia Choir (image courtesy Concordia College)

I don’t talk religion often, because I views beliefs as highly personal, but something about the action of singing together with 70 other people is a very spiritual experience for me. I can’t articulate specifically what it feels like, but for you choral singers out there, you know the instant where everything just *clicks* and you lose yourself in the music? There’s nothing else like it. It’s simultaneously very personal and very public, because you are sharing this experience with peers you have worked so hard with to create the best music you can, while basking in the feelings you as an individual are feeling. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

In my second year of the Concordia Choir, we performed Dr. Clausen’s piece, “In Pace” (Latin for “In Peace”). One of the best parts of choir was Dr. Clausen – not only an incredibly talented composer, arranger, conductor, musician, etc., Dr. Clausen is a wonderful human. He would always tell us the background behind the pieces we were singing in order to appreciate more when performing (and, as a music history buff, this was especially appreciated on my part). According to what he told us during rehearsal, Dr. Clausen wrote “In Pace” in response to his visit to a concentration camp in Germany during one of the Concordia Choir’s international tours. After hearing that, I don’t think I made it through a rehearsal or performance without tearing up. One of Dr. Clausen’s strengths as a composer is to use chords and voicing to create crescendos that build and build to a climax that is typically very emotional for the performer and audience member. There are two main climaxes in this song, the first occurring around the 4:55 minute mark and the second occurring around the 6:30 minute mark which can be heard in the version the Concordia Choir performed back in the 90s that’s made available through Spotify to listen to: Concordia Choir – In Pace.

The text translated to English reads:

In peace, I shall lay me down and take my rest. If I surrender my eyes and eyelids to slumber, I shall sleep and rest. Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Even to this day, I have trouble getting through listening to the song without becoming emotional. To me, this piece transcends singing notes on a page – it speaks to a part of my soul. I wish for everyone to have this experience – even if it’s not with music, that you find something that speaks to you on a level that could never be accurately articulated.

And with that, I wish you a wonderful Friday and a fantastic weekend!

Happy listening, singing, running, exploring, or doing whatever else gives you great joy!

 

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