News > SPOLETO 2017 REVIEW: Westminster Choir

MUSIC

by Emily Reyna

Festival Director of Choral Activities Joe Miller leads the Westminster Choir. | photo by Julia Lynn

Inside the walls of the 200-year-old Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, the first verse to “Death and Resurrection” from The Valley of Delight rang out, illuminated by the late evening sun. “Love surround me, make me whole. Grow in light. Fill my soul.” This performance of the Westminster Choir, conducted by Joe Miller, focused on the meaning of the day, and each song brought a reminder of being awake to the experience.

photo by Julia Lynn

The Westminster Choir is an institution at Spoleto Festival USA, with a tradition of bringing professional-level choral art and a diverse performance of songs. Before one note was even sung, the audience erupted in applause as the choir entered the room.

Lux surgit aurea slowly and softly opened the concert, telling a tale of the rising sun beginning a new day. Delivery was key to the choir’s performance; their bodies moved in agreement with the words they sung, giving more passion and soulful elements to their performance.

Each song seamlessly strung together in the first half, as if one continuous song. During Abendständchen, op. 42, no.1, which gave reference to evening, a bell rang and the choir dispersed, rearranging on the stage. Rearrangement became a key element to the choir, as they wove the narrative of day into each song they performed. Their sound layered on one another, building upon each voice, as they came to “Yes, it’s beautiful” from The Consolation of Apollo, which tells the tale of being in outer space and the sense of discovery felt when the Earth is seen from above in its entirety.

Suddenly, at the end of a quiet melody, one of the choir members shouted, “Hey y’all!” and everyone joyfully ran around stage, even coming into the aisles and talking with each other and the audience. For Zion C.M. and “Yonder Come Day”, with solos by Taria Mitchell and Pauline Taumalolo, the sound was steadfast in early American history and tradition. A nod to African-American slaves, Shakers, Quakers, and early Protestants, these songs conveyed the message of cherishing each day through the faith and hope in God. Their voices were deep and jovial; some stomped brooms on the old wooden floors, some had tambourines, and others were snapping along in agreement to shouts of praise.

After the first of many standing ovations, Miller came forward to speak and thank the audience. But even more so thank the choir, their families, and the alumni present there that day. Their culture seemed very familial, and their joy for each other was contagious to those of us watching. The choir concluded with a selection of their favorite songs. The thing about the Westminster Choir, though, was you never really knew when the end was definitively the end – the audience and the choir could not get enough. Miller, the conductor, was so happy to show off his choir of students that they performed an encore after the standing ovation. Though nothing to do with their program, they performed an emotional and beautiful “I’ll be Seeing You.” They exited out of the cathedral to the words of a prayer, closing out their performance with an “Amen.”

As we filed out of the old pews in the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul and spilled onto the sidewalks of Coming Street, I understood a little bit more how powerful human voices are and how deeply they can make you feel. The Westminster Choir incorporates a depth to songs that went far beyond just singing the lyrics.


 

SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA
May 26 – June 11, 2017 | Charleston, SC
spoletousa.org

 

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Posted on June 6, 2017 by Matt Mill.

Categories: Performing Arts, Review

Tags: Spoleto 2017, Spoleto Festival Usa, Westminster Choir

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