“Soul Full of Song” Concert by Churchill Singers Coming to Campus
The Churchill Singers, an auditioned ensemble of 35 Westminster students , will present “Soul Full of Song” on Friday evening, November 2, at 7 p.m. in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury. The choral concert features performances that celebrate some of the many ways that music impacts our lives.
“Soul Full of Song” is free and open to the public.
Associate Professor of Music and Churchill Singers conductor Dr. Natasia Sexton explains how she approached choosing repertoire for this concert: “Students in Churchill Singers have come to expect that our music will be connected thematically. This time, I was drawn to pieces that actually celebrated the power of music. The poet Maya Angelou worked as a cabaret singer before her poetry was published, and of that experience she said that ‘Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness,’” Dr. Sexton offered.
While that idea has always resonated with Dr. Sexton, she believed that all people—not only musicians—have likely taken refuge in music at one time or another. “This concert considers some of the many ways that music impacts our lives and where it continues to appear time and again,” she concluded.
A contemporary chant, set to the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore will open the concert. Tagore was the Bengali poet who was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. The “Gitanjali Chants” is a mystical and ancient sounding piece that was written only a few years ago by Craig Hella Johnson, one of the most influential composers and conductors living in the United States. His musical setting of Tagore’s poetry is a favorite piece among student singers.
Jeremy George, a junior Security Studies major from Norman, OK, feels a deep connection to both the words and music saying, “It is a slow chant sung by this humble man, and even though there are masters of music singing in the house, an angel visits to hear the song of the humble man; I like to think that I am humble and so lucky to sing with the Churchill Singers, so I really love this piece.”
Abby Beach, another junior from Lexington, MO, studies Biochemistry, and she shares an affinity for the “Gitanjali Chants” with Jeremy explaining, “The entire piece is about how songs guide us through the world; yet the songs are really a metaphor, and that makes the text relatable in a universal way.”
While each piece within the concert is a nod to the significance of music in our lives, societies, and cultures, the program is diverse; it includes an arrangement of First Call’s “O Sifuni Mungu” in Swahili, a Visayan folk song from the Philippines, as well as pieces in Latin and French, and an arrangement by the King’s Singers of the Beatles’ “Blackbird.”
Closing the concert is a rousing finale by Moses Hogan, “Music Down in My Soul.” It includes a rhapsodic opening and concludes with driving gospel rhythms in the piano and stirring declamations from the choir that profess praise and thanksgiving for the joy, peace, and love that music brings.
This number is a favorite of Julian Richardson’s, a graduating Business Communications major and member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity from Columbia, MO, who acknowledges that, “While I am not someone who is religious, this song communicates a message of strength. Finding the music within yourself and being able to gain joy and peace from that is something I think we should all work toward.”
Members of the Churchill Singers rehearse 3 hours every week, and the majority of singers enroll in the ensemble every semester—a significant commitment of time, especially given the fact that many of the students hold elected offices on campus, participate in Westminster athletics, as well as Greek Life, and most singers also have a part-time job.
When asked about this commitment, Shelby Buchholz, a senior Education major from Saint Peters, MO, responded with this, “We are not just a group of college students; we treat each other like family, and when we practice this music, something just happens that brings us together. This is one of the most important things I do here.”
Members of the Churchill Singers invite you to come and lose yourself in the music for a little while.