Easter Concert to premiere two challenging pieces
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
It was a triumphant academic year for the College of Arts and Media’s Music Department with its return to live performances.
It seems only fitting that the college’s two choir groups plan to go out with one of their largest performances of the year.
Tuesday evening, Grand Canyon University‘s Canyon Choral Society and Canyon Chorale will perform alongside the Canyon Symphony Orchestra at this year’s Easter Concert, scheduled for 7 p.m. at La Casa de Cristo Lutheran Church in Scottsdale.
The performance will not only celebrate the Easter season but will also the department’s traditional performance set-up.
“We are returning, finally, to do this large production with a live audience and a live orchestra,” CAM Assistant Dean of Music Dr. Juan Hernandez said. “We’re really providing the full concert experience both for the audience and for our students, which we’ve really missed throughout the last couple of years.”
The audience will have the opportunity to experience the Arizona premiere of two recent and notable long compositions: “The Breath of Life” by Dan Forrest and “Passion According to St. Luke” by Ēriks Ešenvalds.
With the complexity that came with each piece, learning, rehearsing and prepping for the performance was no easy task. “Both of these pieces are very challenging,” Hernandez said.
On top of that, the Canyon Chorale has had only 3 1/2 weeks to prepare after performing its Broadway, Opera and All that Jazz concert in March.
Forrest’s piece, written just before the pandemic, explores what it is to be human. With texts ranging from ancient to modern, themes such as the excitement of birth, sadness that comes with death and the love that ties it all together are weaved into the piece for a profound introspection of the human experience.
“It’s a very moving piece,” Hernandez said.
The concert’s final piece, composed by Ešenvalds, will dive into the passion of Jesus that is presented in the Gospel of Luke.
In addition to the two choir groups, student and faculty soloists will perform sections of the evening’s final composition.
GCU adjunct faculty member Tyler Thompson is one of those soloists.
“One of the things that I’m really excited about is, as a faculty member, it’s really fun to collaborate with other faculty, staff and students on a project together,” he said. “It’s always fun to bring a new work to life.”
It will be especially memorable to have the opportunity to bring the work to life in front of a live audience.
“There is something very special about live music that you don’t achieve over the radio, over a recording or over Zoom,” Thompson said. “I’m thankful that this could be a performance where everybody will be in the room together.”
The concert’s other soloists are mezzo-soprano Ellie Landes and tenor Christian Hall, both CAM students.
Hall, who will portray the prodigal son for his solo, said getting to perform alongside his peers and faculty has been an exciting way to prep for a career in the field.
“It’s a huge honor,” Hall said. “This is my first masterworks solo … and this has been an amazing experience. And the fact that I get to do it with Tyler (Thompson) it just makes me feel a lot more secure in my abilities and confident going forward and doing this as a career.”
Said Landes, “I didn’t expect to have this opportunity, so when it was presented to me, I was very honored that they would think of me and ask me to do this. It just really shows that GCU and the Music Department here really sets you up for a career in what you want to do.”
Hernandez promises a memorable experience.
“Both of these pieces are just wonderful,” Hernandez said. “The words are really relevant to today, and they’re really a great way to get your head in the right place to go and celebrate Easter.
“Also, you would be supporting some really fantastic student work, which students always appreciate.”
IF YOU GO
What: Easter Concert
When and where: 7 p.m. Tuesday April 12 at La Casa de Cristo Lutheran Church, 6300 E. Bell Road, Scottsdale
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].