Luther's 150th Anniversary Celebration

This week proved to be full of music, mostly the Sesquicentennial Celebration kind. Sunshine was also in abundance, at least for most of the week, but I’ll get to that later. First, I should fill you in on the happenings of Luther’s 150th Anniversary Celebration.
    The beginning of the week started with rehearsals with all the choirs in the CFL. To put it bluntly, coordinating 300 singers and 90 musicians is very difficult. Although the hype of the Paulus Premiere that I’ve mentioned before was thrilling, it did not overshadow the fact that working with that many choir members is frustrating. Most of the work was put into simply being together. Along with hearing exaggerations on diction (GLO-ria, KYYY-RI-E), the rehearsals were necessary, but seemed to crawl along. With our regular rehearsal times Monday and Tuesday, dress rehearsals on Thursday and Friday, and a Saturday morning spot check, we were definitely prepared for these concerts.
    Through the intense study of music this week, I’m amazed at the “Luther Mass.” I knew that I liked the piece even before hearing the choral parts, but with the rehearsals this week I’m even more enthralled. With the rich chords and the unique interpretation of the text through the music, it’s as if you could grab the harmonies right out of the air. The third movement is my favorite, “Credo.” The Latin text depicts the creed of the church, what many church-goers know by heart, the “I believe in...” part of the service. It’s interesting because it starts out hauntingly unsure, and yet forms into a triumphant, confident sound. The piece is a treasure that all Luther Lovers should hear.
    I will now take a short weather break to inform you of the craziness happening here in Decorah. Saturday morning, I woke up and thought I had gone back in time. A thin layer of snow littered the Luther campus, and with the cold, harsh wind thrown in, everyone was missing the 80 degree spurt a mere four days before. Coming from a very distinct four-season climate (where when it changes to spring, it stays in spring), the weather here is frustratingly diverse. Oh well, Mother Nature will be Mother Nature.
    Our first concert on Saturday at the CFL was warmly received. It was surprising as an instrumentalist to finally play the Haydn Mass all the way through because we hadn’t done that in rehearsal. A full hour of playing was very tiring, and considering my slight aversion to Haydn in the first place, I appreciated the music, but wasn’t sad to leave it. After a lengthy intermission, we finally got the show on the road with the Paulus. Every musician gave their all and the audience loved the show that celebrated Luther’s legendary music program. I think it was important that we performed at the CFL as well as Orchestra Hall. The CFL performance provided the Luther community with a more ‘private’ performance, and the Orchestra Hall performance let Luther showcase their musical talent to a wider audience.
    Sunday was an early morning: 8 AM loading, 8:30 departure, 8 buses in all. After we arrived, we all marveled at the pictures of the famous musicians’ pictures that hung backstage, signed and framed for every performer that has played there. My favorite cellist Yo-Yo Ma was up there! I’m not sure the significance of the opportunity sunk in until I saw those pictures of so many idyllic musicians and directors. There was also a photo of the Musikverein in Vienna that hung outside the bathroom, and everybody reminisced about our experiences. I thought how fortunate I was that the first time I was at Orchestra Hall was playing on stage with 400 other Luther musicians. This year has provided me with so many new musical experiences to share in this blog.
    Rehearsal in the hall was heavenly. For those of you who have not been in Orchestra Hall, it is a contemporary venue of divine acoustics. With a backdrop of random 3-D cubes on the walls (if that makes any sense...), the stage is vibrant. Not that the CFL isn’t beloved, but everyone was in awe of our soaring sound. The concert was once again enjoyed by all. With the floor almost full, and one balcony packed, the audience was supportive and attentive. At the close of the concert, the soloists, Dr. Hightower and the other conductors coordinated three rounds of bows to accommodate all the applause. Once the applause died away, and hugs were exchanged, everyone jumped into action to load back on the bus. Since all four groups have been on tour, this pretty much runs like clockwork now.
    I apologize for this lengthy blog, but this weekend was glorious and I’m proud to say that I was part of the first LCSO to play the mass dedicated to Luther. In the words of Dr. Baldwin (in his classic Southern drawl), “Y’all played like gods tonight.”

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