On Saturday, Oct. 6, nationally-acclaimed choral ensemble The Singers will deliver the first concert of their 15th season in Macalester’s Mairs Concert Hall. The show will juxtapose two extraordinary works of modern music in a starkly political but ultimately uplifting performance – and it’s free exclusively to students.
The Singers will be performing David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Little Match Girl Passion” followed by Morten Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna” accompanied by a chamber orchestra. While the group has hosted open rehearsals on campus in years past, they have never held an official concert at Macalester.
“This is a really, really good choir – I’m not exaggerating when I say that,” Associate Music Professor and Director of Choral Activities Michael McGaghie said. “One of the things I really enjoy about The Singers is not only do they perform music well, but they pick good music to perform.” “The Little Match Girl Passion” – a choral adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fable of the same name – tells the story of a destitute child freezing to death on the street, ignored by passersby. “Lux Aeterna”, on the other hand, is a bright and buoyant piece inspired by light itself. According to Artistic Director and Singers conductor Matthew Culloton, the contrary selection was inspired by recent political events.
“[The Little Match Girl Passion] is kind of cold, and doesn’t really have a lot of hopefulness. It reminded me of the treatment of the children in the border immigration crisis,” Culloton said. “It’s not the most political I’ve ever been, but it is political.”
However, the narrative Culloton wanted the performance to evoke was ultimately optimistic, noting that the decision to end the concert with “Lux Aeterna” was intended to leave the audience with a sense of hope and positivity consistent with the tone of the work.
“‘Lux Aeterna’ is this contrasting piece by Lauridsen, who’s probably one of the biggest names in American choral music,” he said. “These pieces are even musically such contradictions – the stark minimalism of ‘The Little Match Girl’, with this huge and colorful palette of sound in [‘Lux Aeterna’].” Riley Yawn-White ’19 and Allison Leopold ’20 were able to attend the group’s dress rehearsal on Monday, Oct. 1 as an assignment for their conducting class.
“They’re really good,” Yawn-White said. “It’s the strangest hour and a half you’ll have all week, but it’s well worth your time.” Leopold agreed.
“I was going there as a part of my conducting class, mostly to focus on the conductor, but I ended up thinking about the music a lot,” she said. “I thought it was really cool.”
Doors open at 7:00 p.m., and interested students are encouraged to come early as free tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. As for what audience members can expect from the performance, McGaghie was quick to answer.
“Choral excellence,” he said. “And good literature. They are one of the most outstanding professional choirs in the country.”