250 years later
A birthday bash
Posted March 24, 2006
Rhiannon Mim
In honor of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 250th birthday, the University of La Verne’s chorale and special guest artists performed various works by the composer March 17 at the La Verne Church of the Brethren. As part of the evening, soprano Whitney Wickham performed Mozart’s piece titled “Liehabers Verbrannte,” and was accompanied by Eunyoung Sohng on the piano.

Operatic arias and chamber pieces filled the Church of the Brethren on Friday when the University of La Verne chorale and chamber singers presented an all Mozart concert in celebration of his 250th birthday.

Students and faculty members joined together to perform some of Mozart’s finest work including “Voi che sapete” from “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “Di Zauberflöte” from “The Magic Flute” and “Domine Deus” from Mozart’s “Grand Mass in C minor.”

“It’s happening all over the world. People are doing Mozart concerts everywhere, so I thought we should too,” said Stephen Gothold, interim conductor for the chorale program.

“The whole program is Mozart music. We have five student singers, two faculty singers, a guest string trio and the University Chorale,” he added.

The church was almost completely filled with a captivated crowd that clearly enjoyed the sounds of the great composer.

“It was great to see beautiful classical music being sung,” said Myrna Wheeler, trustee of the University and a previous choral singer herself.

The evening began with three student soloists who bravely sang their hearts out and took the audience back the 1700s when opera was the music of choice and songwriters like Mozart were like the rock stars of today.

The student singers combined the classical works of a genius with the budding voices of youth to create a soothing balance.

“I think the fact that students and teachers alike got up and showcased a piece was really great to see,” said Whitney Wickham, a senior French major and one of the soloists in the performance.

Wickham was one of the three student soloists who performed a stirring aria called “Liebhabers verbrannte” that beautifully accented the evening.

Dana McJunkin was another student soloist who, in addition to being the president of the Associated Students of the University of La Verne, proved to be a talented singer whose performance gave the audience a glimpse of the organic human voice.

Today’s music has almost lost touch with this concept of a voice being the most important aspect of a performance.

Musicians are constantly overshadowing vocal talents by loud instrumental accompaniment, so seeing the vocal talents of the performers on Friday was a treat.

“I think music is a great opportunity for people to look within to make a statement,” McJunkin said.

Many of the evening’s performers showed a definite connection with their music. The emotions that the songs contained were cast brilliantly on the faces of the performers, which brought the audience closer to the music.

Carol Stephenson teaches private voice lessons and a voice workshop at the University. She highlighted the evening with a vibrant performance of “Ach, ich fühl’s.”

Her voice was strong and conveyed the true power of opera, which can be both overwhelming and thrilling.

In addition to Stephenson, Melissa McIntosh Landis was another faculty member who showcased her talent that evening.

She sang “Come scoglio” with a booming voice that sent chills through the audience.

The operatic arias and the chamber pieces of the performance contained music in three different languages.

According to Stephenson, Mozart’s ability to write eloquent operas in various languages is part of what makes him someone to celebrate.

Once the chorale assembled together on stage the evening hit its pinnacle and evolved into an opulent birthday celebration that left the audience delightfully full.

The chorale sang Mozart’s “Missa Brevis in G major” and was complemented by strong instrumentals that carried the singers to a strong finale.

“This is our first spring concert of the semester,” said Eva Hinojoza, a junior music major and a performer in the chorale. “We usually have two spring concerts, so we’ll have another one in May.”

After the musical performances ended the audience was led into a room where birthday cake was dished out by the singers in celebration of Mozart’s life.

Attendees polished off cake while conversing with the singers and faculty on their performances and reminiscing about Mozart.

It was impossible to ignore the grandeur of Mozart throughout the evening.

From the sensational soloists to the breathtaking chorale, Mozart’s influence on music was clear.

“I think it’s really awesome that even after 100 years he’s still being recognized as quite possibly the best composer that ever lived,” Wickham said.

Katie Hillier can be reached at khillier@ulv.edu.

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