On Saturday, March 26, the Kenyon College Chamber Singers performed at Rosse Hall conducted by Professor of Music Benjamin Locke. This particular concert held at Kenyon garnered a sizable audience of students, alumni and professors, filling most of the auditorium.
The Chamber Singers had just returned from their spring tour, which took place over a four-day period at the beginning of spring break. In previous years, the nearly 50-person group has road tripped across the East Coast and to various parts of the Midwest and the South. This year, though, was different: The Chamber Singers limited their tour to Ohio, performing in Columbus, Cincinnati, Findlay and Mansfield. Though the group normally stays with alumni and various host families during their journey, this year they stayed in Gambier each night after their performances to limit potential COVID-19 exposure.
The spring concert back at Kenyon began with the Chamber Singers lining the two aisles of Rosse Hall, commencing the program with “Sangena,” a traditional Zulu processional with a merry rhythm. While the rest of the songs were performed more statically, for “Sangena,” the choir swayed in unison with beaming smiles. It was a bright, cheerful introduction to a more serious program. For the first half of the concert, many of the song selections were traditional choral pieces, from Johann Sebastian Bach to Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. A highlight was Bach’s “Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied,” a 15-minute-long, three-part choral hymn inspired by the Psalms. The choir began slow and somber, but crescendoed to a triumphant climax in part three with fluctuating cries of “Alleluia!”
After the piece concluded, the program shifted slightly towards folk pieces and more contemporary arrangements, including a mournful musical adaption of Emily Dickinson’s poem “Heart not so heavy as mine,” a lovely addition to the program considering the rich literary tradition at Kenyon. One number in particular, “Ae Fond Kiss,” was richly layered with contrasting sopranos and baritones and featured three talented soloists: soprano Jana Heckerman ’22, alto Nyandeng Juag ’22 and baritone Joseph Ferrari ’24, the last of whom delivered a resonating and fervent performance as the choir faded out beneath him. Next came “The Lover’s Ghost,” a spooky English folk song reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe.
Throughout the concert, the singers rearranged themselves based on the different parts for the piece they were singing. In particular, for “When Shall We Three Meet?,” a modern arrangement inspired by Macbeth’s three witches, Locke arranged the choir into three sub-choirs, explaining who sang in which part, and joked that now the audience “knew which witch was which.” The Shakespearean number began with the three respective choirs whispering and hissing the lyrics in ominous tones, growing gradually more forceful until the song culminated in a fervent, cascading cry of the main title. This particular song featured the baritones, who added a resounding foundation to the piece as a whole.
The spring performance ended with the Chamber Singer’s traditional closing number “Kokosing Farewell.” Locke invited Chamber Singers alumni to join the choir as they sang Kenyon’s classic hymn, with many teary-eyed singers remembering their days in Gambier. The performance concluded, a warm concert full of talent, enjoyed by all who attended.