The Bowdoin Chorus will bring its year to a harmonious end with a final concert this weekend. Accompanied by a chamber orchestra, the 60-person ensemble made up of Bowdoin students, staff and Midcoast community members will be singing two pieces: Franz Joseph Haydn's "Insanae et vanae curae" and Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Dona nobis pacem."
"Dona nobis pacem," or "Grant us peace" will be performed at the request of Chorus member Tana Scott '10. Two years ago, Scott did a research project on Vaughan Williams and focused on his masterpiece "Dona nobis pacem." While the title of the work is in Latin, the lyrics are in English and draw from anti-war sentiments from the Civil War era.
Scott asked to perform "Dona nobis pacem" because its comprehensibility allowed the Chorus to focus on the intricacies of singing it.
"The piece isn't very challenging to learn, but it requires a lot of rhythmic precision and dynamic contrast," said Scott. "The fact that we don't have to worry about words in a foreign language frees up a third of our brains so we can think about singing loud or soft."
The second piece, "Insanae et vanae curae" (Insane and vain cares) was chosen by Chorus Director and Senior Lecturer Anthony Antolini '63 to relate to the message of "Dona nobis pacem." Said Antolini, "I chose 'Insanae et vanae curae' because that piece, although not anti-war as such, is about being obsessed with worldly things and forgetting important eternal things."
This concert's featured soloists will be community members Christina Astrachan and Martin A. Lescault. Astrachan teaches voice at Bowdoin and has also performed with the Portland Symphony Orchestra, the Maine Music Society and the Down East Singers. In addition to teaching at Bowdoin, she is on the faculty of the University of Southern Maine and the Portland Conservatory of Music.
Lescault has performed with the Boston Pops, the Orlando Symphony, and the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra. Both Lescault and Astrachan have performed with the Bowdoin Chorus multiple times.
The Chorus is audition-only but accepts singers with all different types of background experience.
"We have a lot of new singers in the group this year," said Antolini. "Many are first years who have been a wonderful addition to the Chorus. Many had extensive choral singing experience in high school. Others are trying singing in a big group for the first time."
Sunday's performances will be the last for the Chorus this spring. Earlier performances included Homecoming and Parents' Weekend concerts, a December concert and a spring tour around Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Reminiscing on memorable concert experiences, Scott explained that her favorite Chorus experience ocurred last summer. The Chorus traveled to Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece on a concert tour and performed pieces in the native languages of the countries.
"We were able to communicate and connect with people of different cultures through our music when we didn't even speak common words to each other," said Scott. "People were so happy, surprised, and thankful that we were singing in their mother tongue even though we didn't understand the words."
The Chorus has already started planning its schedule for next year. In the fall it will perform Brahms's Liebeslieder Waltzes (Love-Song Waltzes) and will feature student soloists. The spring performance will be an all-Mozart concert with soloist Suzanne Nance, who is the Music Director at Maine Public Radio and hosts the morning classical music program.
As a current senior, Scott said she is pleased with her experience as a Chorus member. Scott considers the unique structure of the Chorus as one of its most important features and one of the best reasons to join.
"I enjoy singing with adults and community members in the Chorus because it's one of the few opportunities I have to connect with people from the Brunswick community," said Scott. "It is also a unique opportunity to interact with adults since they aren't teaching me like my professors. We are all learning together."
The Bowdoin Chorus will be performing Sunday at 3:00 p.m.