Battell Chapel Hosts Hopkins Music Ensembles
On Tuesday, December 12, the Hopkins Orchestra and Concert Choir gathered at Yale University’s Battell Chapel to perform their annual Winter Concert. Both instrumental groups have worked since September to put together a diverse and spirited set list of songs.
The ensembles performed pieces from many countries and time periods. “For the choirs [including the Junior School and 8th grade choir], I chose music from around the world (students sang in Sanskrit, Hebrew, Sotho, Swahili, Yoruba, and Igbo, as well as English and Latin) reflective of the holidays and the quiet of winter, that conveys a message of warmth and peace,” said choral director Erika Schroth.
Orchestra conductor and chair of the Art Department Robert Smith also selected songs that reflected multiple centuries and composers. “It’s a tricky thing to do; to find music suitable for an orchestra with a piano and harp. If we choose music that is invigorating, inspirational, and emotional, we can all connect to the songs,” expressed Smith.
Throughout the repertoire, the choir focused on “finding a rich and mature tone,” said Concert Choir Copresident Kieran Anderson ’18. Choir Copresident Naomi Roberts ’18 reflected “In preparation for the concert, we have really been working on our collective tone as a choir. We were fortunate enough to gain a multitude of new members this year, so a lot of our efforts have been put towards learning how to blend as a group.”
This year, the choir has 43 members, the biggest choir in the time since Schroth came to Hopkins three years ago. “[The choir is] singing really challenging repertoire this year, with lots of divisi, sophisticated harmonic language and significant expressive demands,” remarked Schroth. Despite the demanding collection of songs and increase in size, according to Schroth, the students are “up to the challenge.”
The orchestra has also grown from previous years, providing both excitements and challenges. “The main idea we’ve been working on is simply listening to each other and watching the conductor in order to stay together. It’s a really important skill that can be incredibly hard for big orchestras to maintain, especially when everyone’s nerves start acting up during the concert,” said Orchestra Concertmaster Alex Zhang ’19.
Like the size of the Orchestra and Concert Choir, the audience attending the winter concert has grown as well. This year, the concert was held at Battell Chapel, the location of the Winter Concert three years ago, instead of Church of the Redeemer. While Church of the Redeemer had, “wonderful acoustics,… it’s a little too small for this concert - we had such packed houses the last two years that we knew we needed to find a larger space,” said Schroth. Smith agreed and said, “Battell Chapel is an inspirational building with a splendor of decor fitting for both the holidays and the music we are playing.
Even though the number of performers may be increasing, the performers still work together closely to show the pieces they have practiced throughout the term. When talking about the choir’s work to correct mistakes before the concert, Anderson ’18 said that during the concert, “all of these concerns are forgotten and we truly become a unified choir dedicated to producing beautiful music.”
After the ensembles performed songs both by themselves and as a collective group, Orchestra and Concert Choir performed the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah to end the program. Violinist Elena Brennan ’20, who has played in the orchestra for two years, said, “Hallelujah Chorus is the best way to end the Winter Concert because not only is it beautiful and well known, but it displays the collective efforts of the Hopkins Concert Choir and Orchestra through Term 1.”