MANSFIELD, PA—The Mansfield University Concert Choir and the Chamber Singers, under the direction of Peggy Dettwiler, will present their final campus appearances of the academic year in Steadman Theatre on Saturday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public.
The Chamber Singers, a 22-voice ensemble, will begin the concert with Bach’s Cantata #6, Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden. The cantata is based upon the Gospel of Luke story about Jesus appearing to the disciples following the crucifixion. After finally recognizing him on the walk to Emmaus, they plead with him to “remain with them for night is approaching.” The cantata will feature vocal soloists, Molly Cerep, Helen Isaacson, Michael Deshield, and Nicholas Duffy, along with a student string quartet and three oboists, including Susan Laib, professor of oboe.
The Chamber Singers will also perform a setting of the same text by Josef Rheinberger and a spiritual, Abide with me, by Moses Hogan, conducted by Mary Jane Warner and Conner Newkam-Ulrich, respectively.The Concert Choir’s program includes the works they performed at the American Choral Directors conference in Pittsburgh in early March.
This concert, entitled “From Despair to Hope,” begins with a prayer to the Virgin to “repair the fall of Eve and purify our unclean minds,” found in a 13th-century manuscript from Beauvais, France.
Then they perform a 19th-century tent revival piece entitled Am I born to die. The revival hymn appeared in a collection called Kentucky Harmony in 1816. A century later, soldiers faced their deaths in the Second Battle of Ypres in the Flanders region of Belgium, and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae witnessed the first chemical attack in the history of war on April 22, 1915. McCrae’s close friend was killed during the battle on May 2, and McCrae performed the burial service himself. He noted how quickly poppies grew around the graves of the fallen, inspiring the poem, In Flanders Fields. About the same time, Sara Teasdale wrote the poem, There will come soft rains, which was first published in the July 1918 issue of Harper’s Magazine. The poem imagines nature reclaiming a battlefield after the fighting ends and alludes to the idea of human extinction by war. Mexican composer, Jorge Córdoba Valencia, was inspired by a poem by the English romantic poet and mystic William Blake (1757-1827). His poem, The Divine Image, suggests that the image of God is reflected in human beings, not simply Christian human beings, but rather in all of humankind. This setting poses that all people can embody the divine images of mercy, pity, peace, and love and seek the goodness in others. And as a verse from the Qur’an states, these images can lead us to our noblest destiny. Dolly Parton describes the hope of moving toward a new dawn and the light of sunshine in our lives as do the words of the Negro Spiritual emphatically call for “valiant hearted men” to set God’s people free.
The Concert Choir will close the concert with three selections they performed on April 18 for Carnegie Hall’s gala fundraiser featuring the operetta Candide by Leonard Bernstein.