Hark! GCU’s choirs sing, celebrate season
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
The Canyon Chorale will go for glorious at the Grand Canyon University Music Department’s annual Christmas Concert, which comes on the heels of the department’s presentation of another glorious work – Handel’s indomitable “Messiah.”
The 45-member, collegiate Canyon Chorale, which will perform along with GCU’s Critical Mass from 7 to 8:30 Thursday night at First Southern Baptist Church of Phoenix, will dive into a relatively new work for the concert, Norwegian composer Kim Andre Arnesen’s “Magnificat.”
Arnesen wrote the 25-minute work, commissioned by the Nidaros Cathedral Girls Choir, in 2010. It made its debut at Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway, and a recording of the composition, released in 2014, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Surround Sound Album in 2016.
“Magnificat” centers around the text of Luke 2, which tells of the birth of Jesus.
“It’s a slow-moving piece, so the challenge is to bring in the emotion of the text – to experience the conflict Mary was experiencing in herself: the awe, the expectation, the fear and the joy, all at the same time,” said Assistant Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Production Dr. Juan de Dios Hernandez.
In addition to the Canyon Chorale, also taking the stage will be Critical Mass, a group of 12 vocalists whose repertoire is wide-ranging and whose performance reach is wide-ranging, too. You’ll notice the ensemble at everything from commencement to Family Weekend.
On the repertoire for the evening for Critical Mass will be two Dan Forrest pieces.
One is “See Amid the Winter’s Snow” and the other is “The Work of Christmas,” an a cappella piece whose text is based on a poem by educator, theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman. The poem challenges us to live out the Christmas story in practical ways: “When the song of the angels is stilled/ When the star in the sky is gone/ When the kings and princes are home/ When the shepherds are back in their flock/ The work of Christmas begins,” go the lyrics.
The group also will perform “Glow” by Eric Whitacre, which was first performed by the 700-member World of Color Honor Choir at Disney’s California Adventure Park; “Ecce Novum” by Ola Gjeilo; “Ding-a Ding-a Ding” by Greg Gilpin; and the “A Pentatonix Christmas” medley arranged by Mark Brymer, an eight-minute medley of tunes from the popular a cappella group’s Christmas albums that will include “Coventry Carol,” “God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen,” “O Come all Ye Faithful” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
The Forrest, Whitacre and Gjeilo works will be performed with piano and string quartet.
Hernandez said the concert, as it does annually, features traditional choral music in a wide variety of styles. A couple are a cappella numbers. Two classical pieces by contemporary composers will be performed, and two Christmas carols are among the mix as well.
Hernandez said Christmas presents the perfect time for the choir to embrace the mission of the University.
“The primary purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of the Savior,” Hernandez said.
“It’s a rich and very meaningful time of year.”
IF YOU GO
What: Music department’s annual Christmas Concert
Where: First Southern Baptist Church of Phoenix, 3100 W. Camelback Road
When: 7-8:30 Thursday night
GCU Today: “GCU goes big — Hallelujah! — for ‘Messiah'”