German music critics praise Chorale

From the Schwäbisches Tagblatt – May 26, 2010

A Top Ensemble: Valparaiso University Choir in Weggental

Rottenburg – The concert opened masterfully with William Billings’ “Rose of Sharon.” The altos and basses lined up on the left side of the church nave, the sopranos and tenors on the right. The audience of approximately 250 people in the Wallfahrtskirche Weggental was able to experience in close proximity the highly trained voices of the students of the Valparaiso University Chorale (near Chicago).

In Samuel Barber’s “Reincarnations” cycle, extremely quick parlando contrasted with long held notes on the syllable “she.” The choir, directed by Christopher M. Cock, thoroughly mastered the frequent changes in time signature in “Mary Hynes,” singing this song that praises Hynes’ beauty with a hymn-like joy. The central dirge in “Anthony O’Daly,” on the death of the Irish rebel folk hero, moved toward an ever-increasing expression of inconsolable grief. Again and again, the singers achieved the metric and rhythmic maneuvers necessary to the piece. The basses held out a long pedal tone which was then taken up by the sopranos and altos in the higher octaves. Culminating with an effect as of tolling bells, the dirge came to an end in chilling fifths. The third song, “The Coolin,” which expresses a longing for love, was more cheerful in tone. From the balcony, the choir sang portions of Ernest Bloch’s “Sacred Service” in Hebrew.  An excellent baritone soloist sang the beginning of the second movement. The powerful fortissimo and beautiful coloration of the vowels in the “Gloria,” based on that portion of the Catholic mass, were impressive.

Director Cock moderated the second half of the concert, leading the choir in traditional spirituals and then also in Rheinberger’s “Abendlied” and Billy Joel’s “Lullabye” in a clever arrangement by Ludwig Böhme. The concert ended with wild applause and two encores.

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Schwarzwälder Bote – May 26, 2010

Heavenly and Virtuosic Performance Enthuses the Audience: The Choir of Valparaiso University Performs Concert in Weggental/Cooperation with Rottenburg University

Rottenburg (amb) – The approximately 400 people who came to the evening concert in the Weggental church on the Monday after Pentecost were completely enthusiastic. The performing choir was the Valparaiso University Chorale, under the direction of Christopher M. Cock. Only recently Mark Heckler, the president of Valparaiso University, and Bernhard Schmid, the director of the Rottenburg University for Church Music, signed an agreement of cooperation between the two schools.

The concert on Monday evening, in which the students offered a representative cross-section of American choral music, served to deepen this cooperation.

The 48 students of the elite Lutheran university are known in the U.S. through their many CDs, and they certainly excited the audience in the Weggental church. At the start of the concert, the choir sang “I am the Rose of Sharon” by William Billings. This piece opened the hearts and ears of the audience to receive the wonderful gift of the hour.

The singers sparkled in William Billings’ chorale with pearl-like, fascinating runs. Alice Parker’s “Wondrous Love” had a more meditative tone. The men began the piece, with the women joining in. Also from Alice Parker was “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal.” A fascinating aspect of this piece was the “Hallelujah” shout that alternated between the male and female voices. The choir gave the “Reincarnations” of the Neo-romantic composer Samuel Barber a wonderfully soft and tender interpretation.

A heavenly song arose, and the uniquely virtuosic presentation captivated the audience. The choir sang the “Sacred Service” by Ernest Bloch with the organ, a Hebrew song based on parts of the Jewish liturgy. The concert ended with a selection of American folk songs, spirituals and gospels. The audience thanked the choir with standing ovations and frenetic applause.

[Caption: The performance of the American elite students was received with enthusiasm.]

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CHORALE ITINERARY

May 20: Concert - Leipzig, Lutherkirche (7:30 p.m.)
May 23: Service - Seyda (10 a.m.) and Gentha (1 p.m.)
May 24: Concert – Rottenburg am Neckar, Wallfahrtskirche Weggental (7 p.m.)
May 25: Choral Workshop – Rottenburg am Neckar (9:30 a.m.)
May 26: Concert - Bernburg, Schlosskirche (7:30 p.m.)
May 27: Concert - Köthen, St. Agnus kirche (7:30 p.m.)
May 28 - Service - Leipzig, Thomaskirche (5 p.m.)
May 29 - Cantata - Leipzig, Thomaskirche (3 p.m.)
May 30 - Service - Leipzig, Thomaskirche 10 (a.m.)