BYU choir event offers ‘a little piece of heaven’

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Conductor Rosalind Hall opened the performance as the Concert Choir encircled the sanctuary. The vaulted ceiling of the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church was key to providing the perfect acoustics for this sacred choral event. (Jessica Smith)

The BYU Singers and Concert Choir teamed up to host a free concert of sacred music on Wednesday.

The concert was hosted in the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Orem, which event coordinators described as “the perfect backdrop for these choral classics, all of which were intended to be performed in worship services rather than the concert hall.”

In an evening combining the works of Gerald Finzi, John Rutter, Edvard Grieg and other international composers, Rosalind Hall expressed that she and fellow-conductor Andrew Crane offered their audience “a little piece of heaven” preparatory to the Easter season.

Rosalind Hall said she has spent 40 years finessing her abilities as a conductor. The music for this event was selected in December, and the student performers were given three weeks to learn.

“I love to see the students’ faces as they connect with the audience and share with them the experience they have had with the music as they’ve prepared it,” Hall said.

Hall said she was surprised by the event’s large turnout.

“It thrills me that so many people came to hear a concert of very serious music. There was no ‘entertainment’ element, just edifying, worshipful art,” Hall said. “I hope that (audience members) felt joy and that their souls had been fed.”

The BYU Singers and Concert Choir sang together for the final performance: a rendition of John Rutter’s “Gloria.” (Jessica Smith)

Tenor Max Wright said it was important for him to have Hall as a director. She led him to audition for a competitive spot in the concert choir.

“I wouldn’t want to sing in a choir at BYU that wasn’t directed by her,” Wright said. “She works harder than any member of the choir and she cares very personally for each of us.”

Wright said this particular event was a concert he looked forward to more than any he had ever performed in for various reasons.

First, he said, the location at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church has incredible acoustics. Second, the event included a faculty brass quintet during the rendition of John Rutter’s “Gloria.” Third, he said he was proud to be featured in a couple of spots he auditioned for and earned in Gerald Finzi’s “Magnificat.”

“The biggest reason I keep choir in my life is for the good of my mental health. The controlled breathing and unified effort of 80 plus musicians syncs up our heartbeat,” Wright said. “Craig Jessop said once during a rehearsal that great choral music unlocks the gates of heaven, and after five semesters in BYU choirs, I believe that’s true.”

Emily Bashaw is a BYU alumna who had a chance to participate in Concert Choir for one year. Although she graduated a few years ago, Bashaw said she still makes an effort to attend the shows to relieve the stress of her day-to-day life.

“Music is a safe haven for me. I love coming back to lose myself in it again, if only just for an evening,” Bashaw said. “Being able to spend an evening having beautiful music and happy memories wash over me is a very easy sell. I drove from work in Salt Lake City down to Orem for it and I’d do it again.”

The saddest part, Bashaw said, was leaving knowing she’d probably never sing in a group like that again.

The BYU Singers and Concert Choir team up at least once every semester for a concert, and the performance at the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church happens annually.

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