The Merced College Chorale welcomes spring with its “Of Light & Night” Chorale Spring Concert on May 9 and 10.
“The day/night, light/darkness theme is part of life,” director Curtis Nelson said. “They are both concrete and symbolic. They are an inseparable set which are the containers of our memories such as births, graduations, weddings and deaths.”
According to Nelson, the themes are also containers of history. During the Civil War, slaves escaped to the freedom of the North by following the stars, specifically the Big Dipper.
“The spiritual ‘The Drinking Gourd’ celebrates this celestial guidepost that led them to freedom,” Nelson said. “Other songs in the concert speak of the hope and encouragement represented by daylight and the rest and rejuvenation that comes at night.”
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The concert is unique in featuring the talents of two separate chorales.
“For the first time in decades, we have two sections of Chorale, one that meets during the daytime and one that meets on Tuesday nights,” Nelson said. “This brings about a challenge, to rehearse the two groups separately, knowing that I won’t be able to bring them together until the week of the concert when we’ll have just two rehearsals together — one of which is primarily for the instruments.”
The logistics of rehearsing more than 90 singers for an entire semester in two parts and bringing them together at the very end is both daunting and exciting, he said.
Second soprano Mia Fleming has thrived under this challenge. “What I have loved about the process leading up to the concert is seeing how much we have progressed from individual singers to a strong, unified choir,” she said.
“As someone who has had no previous experience in public singing, I was nervous at first, but chorale is now my favorite part of going to school,” Fleming said. “Under Mr. Nelson’s encouraging teaching I have gained a deeper appreciation for music.”
The concert is organized as a weeklong series of days and nights, from Monday through Sunday.
“This journey lasts seven days, exploring many genres and themes,” baritone David Vezzani said. “Wake up to gospel spirituals and grab your lawn chair to view the Northern Lights in the evening. Find solace in the brightness of a new day after an evening of storms and travel by starlight along the Mississippi River. Enjoy classical Latin works and then tap your feet to a Jamaican folk song.
“The contrasts produced in this concert will portray dulling the sting of a sorrowful soul with a sun rising into a blue sky of hope, coping with loss and recognizing the precious blessing of life itself,” Vezzani said.
The music should be a delightful experience and the messages should provide much to ponder, he added.
“It ranges from songs with Caribbean rhythms to those in Latin, to an Irish melody, and traditional spirituals,” soprano Nancy Taniguchi said.
“My favorite part, aside from the variety, is the very challenging ‘Across the Vast Eternal Sky,’ a modern composition with unusual musical structure and lyrics about the phoenix — rising and burning, and rising again,” Taniguchi said.
She had just one word to describe it: “Inspirational.”