On November 18th, North Central College Department of Music put on their annual Explore the Sound concert in Wentz Concert Hall. The Concert Choir, Women’s Chorale, Chamber Singers, and guest instrumentalists performed songs from various artists while utilizing many different locations within the concert hall to showcase the space’s stunning acoustics. The concert also included many instrumental interludes in between choral performances, which kept audience members engaged and made the show flow seamlessly. The pieces selected for Explore the Sound 2022 all connected to the overarching theme: Peace, Joy, Love Unimagined.
The concert began on the broad theme of Peace. From Isaiah 52:7, the Hebrew text is simple, but powerful: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings: of salvation and of peace.” The Chorale expressed this text not only with their voices but through the well-known Israeli folk dance choreographed in 1956 by Raya Spivak.
Ríu, Ríu Chíu
A 16th century Spanish villancico, the refrain translates as “[With a cry of] Ríu, ríu, chíu, the kingfisher, God kept the wolf from our Lamb [Mary, spared of original sin at birth].”
This arrangement featured the tenor and bass voices of the Concert Choir with baritone solos by Fabian Quintero ’23 and Diego Mateo ‘23, percussion by David Lange ’24 and Cameron Green’24, and conducted by Concert Choir President, Axel Hageman ’23.
The Wexford Carol
The Wexford Carol is a traditional Irish carol from the 15th -16th century, which was staged in the style of Anuna, the internationally known professional Irish choir conducted by Michael McGlynn. The chamber singers were joined onstage by cellist Emily Mantell and Bob Saul on piano, with a solo by mezzo soprano Avalon Dufkis ’23.
Gaudete is a medieval song of praise published in 1582 in Piae Cantiones, a collection of Finnish/Swedish sacred songs. With a format similar to Ríu, Ríu Chíu, this carol was sung in Latin and featured a refrain sung first by a semi-chorus and then echoed by the full ensemble: “Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born of the Virgin Mary—Rejoice!” Sung by the soprano and alto voices of the Concert Choir, this arrangement featured soloists Taylor Woods ’24 and McKenzie Linden ’23 and Jon Warfel on piano, and was conducted by MaKayla Wilson ’23, Concert Choir Student Director.
Carol of the Bells
Carol of the Bells is based on a Ukrainian folk melody which was arranged by composer Mykola Leontovych in 1916. Performed by the Chorale, the piece featured a repetitive soprano melody, while the soprano 2 and altos had the responsibility of creating resonating bell sounds with their voices, and dramatic crescendo/decrescendo passages that happen within a short two measure phrase. The song was chosen to honor the Ukrainian people and send heartfelt wishes that Peace may come to them in the New Year.
Deck the Halls
Deck the Halls was performed by the Chamber Singers in the popular arrangement by composer Alice Parker (b. 1925) and conductor and pedagogue Robert Shaw (1916-1999).
Go Tell It On the Mountain
The popular African-American spiritual song compiled by John Wesley Work c. 1865 was performed by the Chamber Singers.
Let My Love Be Heard
Let My love Be Heard is an exquisite work by Jake Runestad, b. 1986, with a poem by Alfred Noyes (1880-1958). Written for Choral Arts Northwest, this piece took on a new life when the choir at Cal State Long Beach recorded it to grieve the loss of a student who was killed in the 2015 Paris attacks. In Runestad’s words, “I am honored that this piece, ‘Let My Love Be Heard,’ has helped to provide hope in the darkness of our world.” At Explore the Sound 2022, the Concert Choir sent this powerful message of Love from their voices to the larger world in confidence that Love, in unimagined ways, with its strength and beauty, will ultimately conquer all.
Betelehemu is a Nigerian carol by Babatunde Olatunji that was performed for Explore the Sound by combined choirs and featured percussionists Maxine Ocampo ‘26, Stella Bank ‘25, David Lange ’24 and Cameron Green ’24.
Glow by Eric Whitacre (b. 1970 with a poem by Edward Esch) was the final song of the concert. The clear, crystalline sound which depicted the winter snow was balanced by the warmth of the voices, often in lower registers throughout the piece. During the performance, singers in the loft dropped falling “snow” as snowflake motifs illuminated onstage. The calming piece connected to the overarching theme of “Peace, Joy, Love Unimagined”.
About Explore the Sound
The annual concert is a tradition which began in 2008, shortly after construction of Wentz Concert Hall was completed. During that time, Explore the Sound was born as a way to encourage discovery of the brand new acoustic environment . Many spaces within the hall are utilized to showcase the sonic possibilities, while lighting and staging choices help bring the music to life. This concert offers students the chance to be adaptive, inventive, and sensitive to the timbral qualities of their instruments in the context of the space as a whole. In recent years, Explore the Sound has centered around themes of diversity, equity, and global understanding. This year, the theme of Peace, Joy, Love Unimagined, included music with sacred text and context, and celebrated different cultures and languages.