Chamber Choirs Sing “Songs of the Earth”

Environmental awareness and understanding our place on our planet is as timely as ever in 2019. It’s important to raise awareness about our relationship with our planet, and on Tuesday, April 9 at Studley Theatre, New Paltz’s Concert Choir, Community-College Chorale and Chamber Singers did just that with their performance “Choral Concert I: Songs of the Earth,” directed by Edward Lundergan, accompanied by Susan Brown and featuring guest mezzo-soprano vocalist Maria Bedo-Calhoun.

Lundergan chose the pieces himself, feeling like they resonated with main theme of the concert. “There are pieces that I’ve encountered somewhere along the way that in another context that… might fit into a theme like this and just to pull them all together was premise of it,” Lundergan said. “And also to look for musical contrast and different styles [of the pieces].”

The first set of the concert was performed by the Chamber Singers, and they performed Mozart’s “Five Nocturnes,” with Brown accompanying the singers for the duration of the performance. The suite was incredibly soothing, and the inflections that the vocalists took added a layer of emotional depth to the piece. 

Next was the Community-College Chorale, and they opened their set with the wildly experimental “In the Beginning of Creation” composed by Daniel Pinkham. The lyrics were taken directly from Genesis 1:1-3, which describes the creation of the Earth. The Chorale employed a wide variety of vocal styles throughout the piece, including spoken word, whispering and shouting, which give you the sense of the chaotic and powerful process behind the Earth’s creation. Sparse, spacey electronics were used to enhance this feeling. 

The next part of the set was “Fern Hill,” a poem by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, and arranged by ohn Corigliano. “Fern Hill” paints an intricate picture of the natural beauty of Welsh wilderness and Thomas’ youth. The piece featured a guest solo performance by mezzo-soprano Maria Bedo. Bedo recently joined New Paltz’s Fine & Performing Arts Administration, and has performed for operas, oratorio and musical theatre. 

Finally, after a brief intermission, the Concert Choir took the stage. They performed the three part song “Due North” by Stephen Chatman. Here, the members of the Choir repeated the names of trees and the words “mountain” and “woodpecker” to paint a picture of natural northern beauty. The rhythm and timing of the choir was intricate and percisie, and it’s a testament to their ability and concentration that they were able to sing this piece with no hiccups. They then performed “The Succession of Four Sweet Months” by Benjamin Britten, “Gartenlieder, Op.3” by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and closing on “Clove Beach” by Shirley Hoffman Warren, a SUNY New Paltz Alumni.

Lundergan hopes that people are more aware about our impact on the Earth. “[I’m looking to raise] awareness of our relationship to nature, that is something valuable and currently in danger at the moment. I’m not intending to preach a specific message or such, but maybe think about it, perhaps,” Lundergan said.