I have been involved with Sonnenberg Station for the past 5 years. I joined as a second tenor and took over the accompanist role once Kevin Himes stepped away from the group. Choral music has always been a passion of mine and Sonnenberg Station is how I keep it in my life, considering my occupation as an elementary music teacher. Tim Shue was feeling as though he needed his spring seasons to be less hectic, so the idea was floated that I direct the group for the spring seasons; it was an offer I couldn’t refuse!
There are many different ways a choral concert can be planned. From light-hearted to deeply moving, Sonnenberg Station has been singing a varied repertoire from the beginning, and this season is no exception. We have our fair share of folk tunes, instrumental pieces, sacred choral works, and even a sea shanty.
I am excited to work with the group on the variety of sacred choral works that we are singing. There are a few pieces in our repertoire this season that I have been wanting to conduct or perform for years. One of them, “O Magnum Mysterium,” is a deeply beautiful and complex piece. It has harmonies that create a very intricate and delicate mood while still maintaining a soaring melody. Choirs that sing this piece are often challenged by its difficulty when trying to sustain proper vowels and intonation, all while singing 5 or 6 parts! Near the end of our concert, we contrast "O Magnum Mysterium" with a spiritual called, “Plenty Good Room.” Moses Hogan helps us show our range by switching the mood in a finger-snapping tune that encourages us all to settle into our seat in our “Father’s Kingdom”. There should be something for everybody!
Aside from being excited about directing a choral group, I was also excited about the possibility of arranging some songs for the group. I arranged a piece for this season called, “The Old Churchyard.” You’ll hear it near the beginning of our concert with Nate Gundy on the guitar and Bill Seymour on the penny whistle. This song is a revised version of an early 19th century Scottish Song called, “The Old Kirk yard.” “Kirk” is a Scottish word that means church, or even more specifically can mean “the Church of Scotland.” I learned of this piece when I heard Offa Rex (British singer Olivia Chaney coupled with The Decemberists) performing it on their new album of traditional English songs. It was a very haunting and beautiful song that I thought would be a wonderful choral piece if it were arranged properly. The words speak of the process of grieving. The song acknowledges the pain that we feel when a loved one is lost but also rests in the hope that on one bright day “sunshine will burst through these prisons of clay, and old Gabriel’s trumpet and voice of the Lord, will wake up the dead in the old churchyard”. Such a powerful message that is oftentimes painful to hear when grieving a loved one. We hope to do it justice! We look forward to seeing you.