Goshen College’s Vox Profundi and Voices of the Earth choirs joined the Elkhart County Symphony Orchestra and the Camerata Singers to perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on Sunday, Nov. 20th in Sauder Concert Hall. The symphony was directed by Dr. Soo Han.800 people were present to watch the performance, and over 100 people viewed the livestream.
Han, the Director of Orchestral Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, serves as music director for the Elkhart County Symphony Orchestra. Under his direction, each ensemble worked toward perfection. The orchestra is celebrating its “75th Diamond Jubilee,” with this season of shows including works spanning centuries of music.
Before the show, Han sat down with the audience to talk through the symphony, explaining that “the work is a battle between good and evil, with good coming out as triumphant in the end, with the familiar ‘Ode to Joy’ theme’s appearance from the choirs.”
As symphonies had never used choirs before Beethoven, Hans noted how shocking Symphony No. 9 was when it was first performed in 1824.
“I try to imagine what it would be like to sit through an entire symphony and suddenly hear singing for the first time ever,” he said. “I try to imagine something in our lives that would be as monumental, yet often fall short finding something to compare.”
For many, the concert was about more than just what the choirs had to offer.
Goshen College’s professors of music, Scott Hochstetler and Roz Woll were featured as soloists in the symphony while teaching and learning the work for their choirs.
“It was stressful to prepare both the choirs and myself, but I had many giddy moments,” Hochstetler said. “Sometimes it’s fun to just let your voice rip, and that’s what Beethoven wanted — unbridled enthusiasm. It was amazing to see the outcome.”
Work towards preparation for the concert began for GC choirs at the beginning of the school year, as the choral section of the fourth movement spans 20 minutes.
“I think that, ultimately, it turned out really well,” said Ellie Nickel, a member of Voices of the Earth and a first-year social work major. “I enjoyed working with [Han] and I think he’s the sweetest.”
After the performance, Han wrote on Instagram: “This was one of the most meaningful performances of my life and the journey with my colleagues has left a permanent imprint on my heart.”
The last time that GC choirs performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 was in 2017, and it only included the final movement for the four-movement work.
Those involved noted how challenging the symphony is to work with, as the final product from this year’s performance was one those involved were proud of.
“This was a really special performance,” Hochstetler said.