What’s one of the best parts about going to a large, internationally-recognized university? Making connections with people from all over the world!
This Winter Quarter, University Chorale explored music from the Baltic Region, singing pieces from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In part, this was a great way to prepare for and look forward to the Chorale trip to Estonia in summer 2019. Also, we had the great distinction of welcoming ambassadors from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania at our March 2nd concert, and we performed an all-Baltic set to honor these countries.
To give us a little context on what role music plays in the Baltic nations, we held a showing of “The Singing Revolution”, a documentary on Estonia and their story of peaceful protest under Soviet occupation. It was incredibly moving to watch this powerful film and understand just how much music means to the people of Estonia. Music can be one of the best ways we can connect as human beings, and seeing how these people used music to unite and hold onto their national identity under oppression was truly inspiring.
Our a-cappella music set included a variety of folk songs in languages that were both exciting and challenging to sing. We were very grateful to have some diction help from the UW Baltic Studies department to tackle the traditional delivery and nuance these languages required. It was great to hear that not only did we get our diction correct – thankfully! – but we did these songs justice when we performed them at our March concert.
The Sopranos and Altos were featured on “Dindaru Dandaru”, a quick-paced Latvian folk song that included six-part harmonies and rapid-fire lyrics. The Tenors and Basses had their chance to shine on “Teomehe-laul” (“Serf’s Song”), an Estonian piece with a rich melody that moved between voice parts and really showed off their strong voices.
In the Lithuanian piece “Anoj Pusej Dunojelio”, the Tenors and Basses learned how to produce otherworldly overtones, creating the perfect foundation for Sylvia Jones’s solo. She sang with a beautiful, crystal-clear quality to that was just right for this piece.
One of our assistant conductors, Anna Frisch, conducted the Latvian song “Līgo!”, which had us swaying to the breeze of the music, led by two trios covering the solo lines.
Perhaps the most moving piece of the night was “Pūt Vējiņi”, a traditional Latvian folksong that has become a symbol of hope and identity for the Latvian people. In addition to singing the Latvian verses, we included verses in Estonian and Lithuanian, and we ended the piece with the final Latvian verse entirely memorized. Our audience members, including our friends at the Baltic Studies department, said this was a truly touching moment.
This concert was particularly special since we had the opportunity to engage with vocalists from around the world. A few days before our concert, we invited Evans Obanda Mbinji, a choral conductor from Kenya, to our rehearsal. He shared some traditional Kenyan music with us, and we even opened our March concert with “Jambo!”, a song of greeting and welcome. Also at our concert was the Putni Women’s Ensemble, an internationally-recognized group from Latvia. They came to our rehearsal after the concert, treated us to a sample of their repertoire, and shared some kind thoughts about our concert.
Attending a large university can have its challenges, but it is so exciting to see the international connections we can make at a school like UW. This past quarter has reminded us of the real power in music to unite people from all walks of life and serve as a symbol of hope.
We’ve got an exciting Spring Quarter coming up, as we’ll be diving into the Brahms Requiem among some other great repertoire. Plus, the annual Chorale Cabaret is just around the corner! Stay tuned for more updates on all things Chorale.
Until next time!