The Contori Sine Nomine choral ensemble filled the room with sounds of a soothing German solemn hymn at the first Sundays at the Morgan concert of the spring semester Sunday in Morgan Auditorium.
Led by Maestro Stephen Gothold, the choir, accompanied by an organist and cellist, performed “Musikalisches Exequien,” a sacred choral piece composed by Heinrich Schütz for the funeral of Count Henry II. The piece is separated into three sections.
The concert began with a brief introduction from Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Felicia Beardsley, who provided a short description of the Sundays at the Morgan series and introduced Gothold.
“(Gothold) has even taken a turn at directing choral activities here on our campus, so we’re really, really proud to see him back again for this,” Beardsley said.
Audience members received programs with the lyrics to the song in both German and English.
The lyrics were chosen from scriptures from the Bible along with texts by 16th century Lutheran writers including Martin Luther and Ludwig Helmbold.
Gothold provided history and context about Schütz and the piece before inviting the choir and musicians onto the stage.
After a quick tuning session, the choir began the first and longest part, “Concert in Form einer teutschen Begräbnis-Missa” or “Concerto in the form of a German burial Mass,” which had a steady, yet solemn tone and featured various soloists along with full choral sections. The song sounded conversation-like, with choir members singing off each other.
At the end of the first part, the choir shuffled around and prepared a choral arrangement for the next piece, “Motette ‘Herr, wenn ich nur Dich habe’” or “Motet: Lord, When I only have Thee.”
This section was shorter and a bit more uplifting, while being less solo-oriented. It focused on the entire choir as a whole and highlighted certain sections of the choir.
In preparation for the last part, “Canticum B. Simeonis ‘Herr, nun Iässest Du Deinen Diener’” or “Song of Simeon: ‘Lord, now lettest now Thy servant depart in peace,’” three singers left the stage and moved toward the back of the auditorium, surprising the audience and causing heads to turn.
“Schütz, who wrote a lot more information in his scores than a lot of composers did, insisted that those three people be at a distance from the rest of the choir,” Gothold said. “They’re supposed to be angels.”
As the two choirs sang back and forth, the singers created a surround sound experience. Both choirs sang different parts, but harmonized and blended well together.
Gothold lowered his arms after the last part and the audience applauded the performers and until most of the choir members were off the stage.
“(Learning the pieces) wasn’t too bad,” alto singer Stefanie Brignoni said. “I know German is kind of sometimes difficult, but obviously, because (Gothold) speaks it, it helps out a lot. It was difficult, but not totally overbearing.”
The next Sundays at the Morgan concert features Michael Ryan and Friends performing Spirit of Ireland on March 1.
Emily Lau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.