Montclair State Singers and Chorale Bring New Life to Old Art

By Adam Grassani, Staff Writer

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The Montclair State Singers and Chorale’s work addressed the devastating environmental and economic impact strip mining has had on the Appalachian people.
Photo courtesy of Rob Davidson

The Cali School of Music’s annual Winter Chorale concert was a phenomenal success, combining a variety of musical stylings to put on a uniquely inspiring performance.

Dr. Heather J. Buchanan served as the conductor with Steven W. Ryan as the accompanist. Students put together a performance for all ages known as “Appalachian Requiem,” which featured a mixed chorus, soprano solos and a chamber orchestra.

According to Montclair State University’s website, the music piece addressed environmental issues people faced during the strip mining that occurred in Appalachia.

“In the end, our responsibility as performers is to convey the human impulse underlying the musical meaning,” Buchanan stated within the concert’s pamphlet. “The marriage of texts and music in ‘Appalachian Requiem’ is exquisite, and I sincerely trust our performance tonight will take you on a journey that is both inspiring and thought-provoking.”

One of the most impressive aspects of the concert was how well designed it appeared to be. The first part of the show, dubbed the “Messiah,” was described by Buchanan as a very simple introduction to the show to get both the chorale and audience warmed up. Only the voices of the singers and the playing of the piano were heard. At the end, members of the audience were invited to participate in singing “Hallelujah.” There was no better way than that to send the show into intermission.

Buchanan did a fantastic job not only as the conductor but as the master of ceremonies as well. She communicated with the audience very clearly in between songs during the ‘Messiah,’ telling the audience the name of the upcoming song and what to expect from it. In short, she presented the concert to the audience flawlessly.

Once the show returned from intermission, play time was over. The “Messiah” did its job to warm the audience up. Afterward, it was time for the performance to go full steam ahead into the “Appalachian Requiem.” Now the concert was able to vastly expand in the use of instruments, adding flutes, violins and more to the performance. Visually, song lyrics were now shown on a small but wide screen from above, compensating for the complex vocals.

Of course, the highlight of the show was the actual music. The chorale was able to convey so many different paces, moods and atmospheres throughout the performance. For example in part two of the “Appalachian Requiem,” the “Sequence,” the music became more epic with deeper lyrics while getting more atmospheric with a faster pace in the next part, the “Afferatium.”

The music’s pace slowed down in “Sanctus” with softer music pieces then ended the show with a bang, specifically known as “Lux Aeterna.” The music started off joyous, then became more dramatic before slowly getting calmer and bringing the concert to a close.

The Montclair State University Singers and Chorale put on a phenomenal performance. It was brilliantly designed, messaged and most of all, performed.

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