“Love divine, all loves excelling.” The music rang out through the sanctuary of First Free Methodist Church.
Seattle Pacific University’s Chamber Singers and Concert Choir joined with Encore, a guest choir from Timberline High School in Boise, Idaho, enveloping the audience in Charles Wesley’s beautiful hymn.
SPU’s Autumn Choral Concert featured four different choirs, provided the audience with a stunning evening of music that was both a pleasure to hear and, at times, contained a challenging message.
On the evening of Friday, Nov. 3, First Free Methodist was packed with an expectant audience, anticipating an evening of beautiful music from the four different choirs.
When SPU’s Women’s Choir, conducted by Professor Beth Ann Bonnecroy, filed onto the stage, a silence swept over the audience. Their first piece, “Cantate Domino,” lifted praises to the Lord in a Latin rendition of Psalm 97.
After the applause subsided, Professor Bonnecroy addressed the audience, thanking them for attending.
“Being an educational institution,” Bonnecroy said, “we hope that you will definitely enjoy the music this evening, but maybe also be challenged by something or learn something from what you hear tonight.”
The Women’s Choir’s next piece certainly presented listeners with a challenging message. “Tree of Peace,” composed by Gwyneth Walker based on a text by John Whittier encouraged the audience to “listen to one another.”
“Walk in reverence in the steps of those who have gone before, where forgiveness and wisdom have stood.”
The Women’s Choir also sang a Xhosa prayer, a traditional spiritual, and an Appalachian hymn.
Sean Kane, director of Encore, then led his students in three short, but impressive pieces.
The chamber choir was on tour in Seattle, and Kane said, “We feel very lucky, very blessed to be here.”
The Timberline High School Choir also joined the Concert Choir for two songs later in the program.
Next on the stage were the Chamber Singers, directed by Dr. David Anderson.
In a short introduction to the three pieces that the Chamber Singers performed, Anderson elaborated on a project he has been working on over the last few years.
“During the era of the emerging middle class and changing social norms, there was an explosion of amateur choirs throughout the world, particularly in Victorian Great Britain. All towns had little town choirs. New publishers opened up, using new technologies to produce more music,” Anderson said.
“There’s a ton of music that was written and used, but five years later it was forgotten. I’ve been researching for the last number of years and will soon have a website up with about 2,000 scores for different directors to access this literature.”
Anderson explained that he has been working with The British Library and a number of libraries around the world in this project.
He also described that the three pieces the Chamber Choir performed represented different genres of this literature he has been researching.
The third and final one, titled “Alexander,” was a funny little poem that Alfred Brewer put to music. This piece was quite entertaining, and brought laughter to the audience.
Natalie McConnell, a sophomore at SPU and member of the Concert Choir, praised Dr. Anderson. “He is an awesome conductor. He’s really personable, and everybody in the choir loves each other, so it’s a good experience,” she said.
The Concert Choir performed five pieces, two of them with the Chamber Singers and Encore.
“‘Nunc dimittis’ was kind of difficult,” McConnell said. “The rhythms and some of the notes were really difficult, and some of the parts meshing together. But it came together pretty well, I think.”
And indeed, the audience greatly enjoyed each piece.
In “Mo Ghile Mear,” student David Ahmann sang a moving solo, as did Tyra Wilson Begdeloo in “Only in Sleep.”
Friends and family members of the choir members crowded into the sanctuary. For McConnell, his family was unable to attend because they live in Portland, but were still able to watch the concert through a live stream feature.
First year Madeline Knapp was in her high school choir from sophomore to senior year, and is eager to be a part of SPU’s Concert Choir.
According to Knapp, “There are some very difficult pieces, especially the ones that are in a different language, but it’s a fun journey.”