This story originally appeared in The Rotunda
Last night, March 28, Jarman Auditorium held a concert by a combined chamber music chorus of singers from the Virginia Commonwealth University Women’s Choir and the Longwood University Chamber Singers. They were also joined by Dr. Justin Alexander, who plays the vibraphone and is an assistant professor of percussion at VCU. Since “most of (the concert) celebrates women,” as the brochure puts it, the choirs were entirely female. In addition to this, several of the songs were about women, such as “Womanly Song of God,” which was adapted from a poem by Catherine de Vinck. Dr. Pam McDermott, the Director of Choral Activities at Longwood, noted before the production began that “there has been a lot of discussion and conversation around the text of our music tonight.” She felt that it was “especially wonderful to sing these texts with women, conducted by women and accompanied by women; it gives us an opportunity to explore.” These women are not only from the music department, they are from “all over campus,” as Dr. McDermott says. This event filled many of Jarman Auditorium’s seats.
The show was split into four different sections. First there was the Combined Choirs, which sang the songs “Gloria” and “Sanctus” from “Mass No. 6.” After that, the show split into the VCU Women’s Choir and the Longwood Chamber Singers. The VCU Women’s Choir went first, Singing “Gnothi Safton (Know Thyself),” “Voices of Broken Hearts,” and “A City Called Heaven.” All of these songs are very much what they say on the tin. The song “Gnothi Safton (Know Thyself)” is a song about knowing who you are and being in touch with that. “Voice of Broken Hearts” on the other hand, is about the pain of losing a loved one. Lastly, “A City Called Heaven” is about eternal life and peace.
There was a brief interlude from the two female choirs in which Dr. Alexander from VCU played the song “Cycles (America)” by Walter Whitman on the vibraphone. This song, he said, was about the cycles of poverty and discrimination that continue to exist in the United States. It was almost odd to change from the soft singing of the choir to the low hum of the vibraphone.
At this point in the concert, there was also a small vocal ensemble of singers from both schools. These singers sang two songs, “Dôme Épais” by Leo Delibes and “Nothin’ Gonna Stumble My Feet” by Greg Gilpin. “Dôme Épais” is a very happy song about two friends, while “Nothin’ Gonna Stumble My Feet” is, like “Cycles,” about overcoming obstacles.
After VCU’s women finished their part, it was time for the Longwood Chamber Singers to take the stage. The Longwood women sang three different songs of their own; “Regina Coleli,” “Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One,” and last, but not least, “Morning Light.” These were all amazing songs to listen to.
These talented singers are far from done with their semester. “We perform a couple times every semester, this is our first time collaborating with VCU,” says Dr. McDermott. “This is the first time our two women’s choirs have joined forces,” she reiterates. “I’m looking for different styles, different combinations of voices, different genres so that the singers experience lots of different kinds of music over the course of the semester,” she says when asked how songs are chosen. The women will be singing next at Shady Grove United Methodist Church in Mechanicsville, with free admission.