Love songs: GC choirs pluck at heartstrings in Winter Concert

Goshen College’s winter concert highlighted the fact that Valentine’s Day was only several hours away.

Scott Hochstetler and Debra Brubaker, the two choral conductors at Goshen College, clearly knew what they were about on Saturday, Feb. 13 when they opened the winter choir concert, “All About Love,” with the sweeping chordal grandeur of Johannes Brahms in  “Der Gang zum Liebchen” (The Walk to the Beloved).

The Goshen College Chorale was the first group to perform, singing two contrasting Russian settings of the same piece, “Bogoroditse Djevo,” and a piece by the British composer Gerald Finzi, which ended their section of the concert on a powerful and jubilant note.

Goshen College Chamber Choir came to the stage next. The women sang a chant while the men—strategically placed behind the risers—rang hand-bells in incidental music fashion, combining the archaic with the modern in a juxtaposition of genres. Johannes Brahms was featured in this portion as well, in selections from “Neue Liebesleider (New Love Songs)” with soloists Amy Hansen, a senior, and Patrick Ressler, a junior. These two voices weren’t the only thing featured; the ever-rare four-handed accompaniment was also put into play by Christine Larson Seitz and Barb Slagel.

The Women’s World Music Choir entered walking down the aisles and onto the stage while singing a simple arrangement of the hymn “Come Thou Fount.” Their three other songs were all international—two Bulgarian folk texts and one traditional Irish Gaelic text, the setting of which was as light and bright as the language in which it was written.

“The bright colors of the women’s choir’s scarves did not outshine their voices,” said David Zwier, a sophomore.

Not only were the women’s choir’s pieces aurally pleasant; they were also visually intriguing, especially “Polegnala e Todora,” during which all the women were seated about the stage while a vocal quartet relocated itself for each stanza.

In conclusion, we heard the men’s Chorus, featuring baritone soloists Zach Clouse and Patrick Ressler, student accompanists Ben Breckbill, Jay Mast and Steven Cress, and a rendition of a text by Charles Dickens, “Things that never die,” set to music by local composer Lee Dengler.

“Lee Dengler’s arrangement was amazing,” said awestruck audience-member and Umble Center technical director, Jerry Peters.

The concert ended with a standing ovation as the audience was prompted to join the men’s Chorus for the well-known song, “Soon and Very Soon.”

“It was really exciting when the audience stood up and sang with us,” said Aaron Kaufmann, a sophomore member of the choir.

This concert was the final combined choir concert of the year.

Director Debra Brubaker’s description of the performance was a summation of the evening.

“This choir concert was an especially enjoyable one to program and work on,” she said. “The music’s variety, plus its focus on love in many forms, gave a real energy to the evening.  More than any other, this concert highlighted the strength and beauty of sound that all four of our choirs possess.”

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Written by Elspeth Stalter

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