Biola’s music conservatory displays its talent

The annual prism concert encapsulates the passion and discipline of this university’s musicians.

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Maxwell Heilman/ THE CHIMES

Maxwell Heilman , Writer

Whether one looks to Singspiration chapels or sporadic concerts such as The Eddy, the presence of music on campus remains apparent. Something in musical expression awakens both spiritual and emotional catharsis in Christ’s body nothing else can duplicate. While many students find solace and renewal in song, some dedicate large parts of their lives to exploring these oceans of artistic discovery. This year’s Prism Concert presented the fruits of countless hours each student involved spent perfecting their craft in a quest for true sublimity.

wall-shaking drones

Ryanne Mclaren, sophomore music performance major, began the concert with “Toccata No. 4” by Eugene Gigout, a powerfully agile organ composition that entrenched the audience’s senses in cascading single-note runs and wall-shaking drones. Since the concert hall was created to lend itself to this instrument, this introductory piece resonated perfectly, providing a memorable start to a diverse palette of music.

With fall well underway and winter mustering its first wind, the irony of this concert’s ongoing theme of spring ended up providing a welcomed contrast to a rather overcast day and the gradually increasing cold. The joy associated with a season so far away radiated an audience bracing for dropping temperatures.

Although traditional music education often becomes dismissed as boring or out-of-touch, every performance transfixed those seated in Crowell that night. Whether massive symphonies or solo musicians took the limelight, a genuine aura of appreciation hung in the air. Sage Yang, sophomore music performance major, commanded the attention of the room with a rendition of legendary virtuoso Niccolo Paganini’s “Caprice No. 24 in A Minor” just as effectively as Biola’s symphony orchestra did when performing “Jupiter” from Gustav Holst‘s iconic suite.

a compelling groove

In the same way, the jazz ensemble brought the compelling groove of Kris Berg’s arrangement of James Ellis’s “The Chicken” while a string quartet garnered appreciation with the multifaceted dynamics and techniques in “Assez Vif, Trés Rythmé.” This concert quickly became far more than a simple collection of recitals. It became a celebration of the effort put out by each student towards the art form they fell in love with.

Like the organ solo intro, the vocal ensembles sound particularly good in the extremely reverberant concert hall. Voices of diverse styles and ranges soared over orchestral accompaniment or joined in celestial choral arrangements, reaching overwhelming levels of emotional intensity. “O Salutaris Hostia” evoked the heavens with patiently building crescendos and explosive dynamic bursts, while the percussive foot stomping and striking tribal vocalizations of “Chua-Ay” took everyone off guard. Every stylistic direction these singers took echoed in the minds of all who listened long after the last reverberations bounced off the walls.

While each of the featured performances shined in their own way, the time and energy put into ordering them in a sensible way became obvious as the show proceeded. A concisely technical trumpet and piccolo duet or a chillingly atmospheric piano solo existed perfectly well on its own while also providing time for larger ensembles to transition to and from their respective positions.

The Prism Concert as a whole moved throughout the sonic spectrum, bringing a vibrant array of musicians from all walks of life into communion. Both audience and performers found common ground as the music made that day pointed towards the God who gave mankind music as a means of glorifying him, as conservatory director George Boespflug summed up with Psalm 150: “Praise him with trumpet sound;  praise him with lute and harp…  praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals… Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”

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