Muhlenberg Choirs present “Dark Night of the Soul”

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To question the balance and where the line is drawn, as well as when art is considered an object or an experience — such things and more are what the Chamber Choir and Women’s Ensemble addressed in “Dark Night of the Soul,” their final concert of the year, which took place on Apr. 21 in Egner Chapel. The concert itself was a meditative experience, and I found myself becoming contemplative in my thoughts and surroundings. I had been transported from the space of a Chapel to an open space; constricting walls became unobstructed paths, mindful silence became attentive listening. This is the authority and power of a chorus.

The first piece sung by the Women’s Ensemble that I personally enjoyed was Ēriks Ešenvalds’ “Only in Sleep.” A piece with layers and layers of musical voices entwining with each other, “Only in Sleep” holds a thick texture. It begins with a soloist, who sings the song’s namesake for the first time. Gentle, yet piercing, her voice soars. As the rest of the ensemble supports her, humming harmonies which function as a basis for the soloist, the piece in its entirety is a capella. In many ways, this piece reflects much of Women’s Ensemble’s strengths; the accuracy in pitch and dynamics was astonishing. Each chord progression was spotless in motion, and I was truly moved by their performance. To me, it sung as a piece of memory, as said in the song’s lyrics: “Only in sleep I see their faces, Children I played with when I was a child … Do they, too, dream of me, I wonder, And for them am I too a child?”

“Dark Night of the Soul,” the essential piece which the concert surrounds in nature and body, is as complex as it is beautiful. Written by Ola Gjeilo and sung by the Chamber Choir, the piece, like “Only in Sleep,” was thick in texture and design.

“I love Gjeilo’s music a lot because of the beautiful textures he creates,” described Max Kasler ‘20, a member of the Chamber Choir. “‘Dark Night’ was especially fun because it was minimalistically beautiful. It’s such a long piece, which means there’s a lot of music to dig into, and it’s just a gorgeous piece of music. It’s also seldom but fun for choirs here to work with a string quartet.”

“Dark Night of the Soul” begins with the choir and string quartet performing in sync. It’s exciting, as the orchestra perpetuates the whole ensemble towards an unknown destination.

Holly Morgan ‘18, also a member of the Chamber Choir, further describes the epic:

“My favorite piece to sing was ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ by Ola Gjeilo. The harmonic tone and epic quality of the piece makes one feel as if there is an ocean of sound coursing through their veins. There is something inherently powerful about being engulfed in a body of sound like that one, and I found myself close to tears every time we sang the entire piece. It was also a musical challenge switching between time and key signatures at the drop of a hat – you always had to be on your toes while performing this one or you were completely lost.”

Such an experience honestly describes my own thoughts about the concert as a whole. It was an enriching experience and almost overwhelming in the sound and acoustics that were provided. Powerful music with an equally powerful ensemble, as well as emotionally driven content, flooded my senses and I was, in the end, mesmerized with its faculty of influence and complete control. The concert was unique and honestly beautiful, and I am honored to have experienced it in its splendor.

Lauren Mazur, member of the class of 2019, serves as the co-editor of the Arts & Culture section. Now a Junior, she is a double major in English and Music as well as a part of the Pre-Law program.

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