The Cameron University Concert Choir and Centennial Singers recently combined their talents, putting on a concert to finish the spring semester.
The concert, which opened at 7:30 p.m. on April 23, was deemed a celebration of “Liberty, Love and Hope,” with each group choosing their songs to fit one of the three parts of the motif.
The Concert Choir, under the direction of Temporary Instructor Dr. John Cornish, focused on the themes of liberty and hope, while the Centennial Singers — conducted by Adjunct Professor Doris Lambert — chose to use love as the inspiration for their section of the program.
The evening began with the Concert Choir performing two patriotic songs: “God Bless America” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” In his introduction, Dr. Cornish said the Concert Choir had recently performed the same two songs in tribute to Vietnam Veterans as part of a concert at the McMahon Auditorium.
Both songs featured a capella interludes that highlighted the choir’s harmonizing prowess.
Next, the Centennial Singers took to the stage to perform four songs which spoke on the various forms of love. Each song performed had something special about it to set it apart, but there were two songs that really stood out: the first was, “In My Life,” a Beatles song arranged in the a capella style by Steve Zegree that featured a solo by CU freshman Jessica Fernandez.
Fernandez, a Vocal Music major, said this was her first semester singing with the Centennial Singers.
“It’s a lot more upbeat, a lot more ‘show,’ so I really had to grow out of my comfort zone and learn to use my face and body rather than just relying on my voice,” she said.
Fernandez said she was really honored to do a solo for the concert, especially since she did not even need to try out for it, but was instead handpicked for her vocal talent.
The second song of the Centennial Singers’ portion of the program that stood out was “I Love a Piano,” written by Irving Berlin and arranged by Philip Kern, which featured duo pianists Kristina Henckel and CU senior Jiha Choi.
Even without the complicated piano accompaniment, the Singers’ last song would have been a crowd pleaser based on the fun choreography alone.
Following the merriment of “Piano,” the mood of the evening took a sad turn as Lambert announced that Henckel, who has been the Singers’ accompanist for the past four years, would be leaving soon as part of her family’s military obligations, and that the concert was the last time that she and the Singers would work together. As Lambert’s voice cracked, it was apparent to everyone in attendance that Henckel’s presence on campus would be sorely missed.
Henckel then brought the audience to its feet with an amazing interlude that showcased excerpts from “Totentanz” by Franz Liszt, making sure that the swan song of her career at Cameron would be remembered. Before she left the stage, the Singers presented her f lowers.
The last portion of the concert brought the Concert Choir back out onto the stage to sing songs about hope. The first, “Prelude” by Ola Gjeilo, was sung a capella and had definite connections to the composer’s Norwegian background. The next song, “Sing Me to Heaven” by Daniel E. Gawthrop, featured just the women of the choir.
Before the choir sang its third song, “Good Night, Dear Heart” by Dan Forrest, Dr. Cornish said that he wished to dedicate the song to the memory of those that were lost in both the Boston bombing and the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas. He said that while the list of songs that were to be performed had been finalized long before the tragedies took place, he thought that Forrest’s song was an appropriate tribute.
The last two songs of the night were “Abide with Me,” a song that Dr. Cornish wrote himself four years ago and was recently published last year, and “I Will Rise,” arranged by Craig Courtney and Lynda Hassler. The latter featured a trio ensemble that was made up of Kaley Neal, Jessica Fernandez and Thomas Hudson, all of whom are freshmen music students.
Showcasing the young talent of the choir was a perfect way to match the theme of hope as it showed that the future of the Concert Choir will be in good hands.
Dr. Cornish said he felt that the song choices he made for the choir’s portion of the concert were appropriate, not just after the recent tragic events, but for anytime.
“We always need something to remind us of the possibility of life beyond death, to have something that gives us hope,” Dr. Cornish said, “and I think history has shown that people turn to music when words are not adequate enough.”