Armstrong Chorale & Vocal Chamber Ensemble perform stirring renditions of International folk songs

Hannah Hanlon, Staff Writer

The Armstrong Chorale & Vocale Chamber Ensemble treated an audience of nearly 80 people to a performance of songs that originated from countries such as Sweden, Wales, Japan, Germany and Italy. The performance featured several student conductors and a world premiere of an original composition by one student from Germany.

The time period of the songs that were performed in the Fine Arts Auditorium on April 23 ranged from the 1500s at the time of the High Renaissance, to Victorian Era, to the 20th century. The songs reflected the social and historical conscience of the country and era that they originated from.

One such song that hails from Wales titled “All Through the Night” was sung like a lullaby although it is a Swedish folk song.

“It was fun to hear them sing the song in Swedish,” said Elinor Segersten, an international student from Sweden who has been here since August. “They did a good job.”

Another exciting song performed was “Va pensiero,” which was written in Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi, a passionate Italian nationalist, when it was not a unified country. Verdi used the biblical theme of Israelite captivity to reflect the Italians attempting to run away from their oppressors according to the conductor, Dr. Robert Harris.

Alejandro, a senior biology major from Costa Rica, had a friend who asked him to come. This was his first time to hear the choir, and the performances exceeded his expectations.

“I really enjoyed the premiere that they had,” said Alejandro. “It has a sentiment behind it that means something more than just the music itself.”

Alejandro was referring to the world premiere of an original composition titled “Bleib ganz ruhig,” written by Luise Jäsche, which she dedicated to her best friend.

“She always encourages me to write,” said Jäsche.

Jäsche, a student from Germany, has been in Savannah for a year to study English and music.

Damon Banks, Jr., student conductor, guides the Armstrong chorus in a performance of “The Nightingale.” Photo by Hannah Hanlon.

The beautiful composition took the listener on an emotional journey with a range of dramatic crescendos to gentle calm. Jäsche said she was inspired to write the piece to reflect her own sense of anxiety about situations and then the reminder to herself to become calm.

“I’m a person who is always really stressed, really easily, and so the music would get louder and the harmonies are complicated, and I just wanted to have this big crescendo in the piece,” said Jäsche.

“This is the moment where I’m super overwhelmed and then just, like, ‘stay calm,’ so that is why it’s calm at the end.”

This may be the first premiere of this composition, but it is not Jäsche’s first time as a musical composer.

“She did a piece last semester, too,” said Dr. Harris. “She conducted it last year.”

This concert was the last of three different concert performances that the chorale ensemble has performed this semester, which included singing with the Hilton Head Orchestra three weeks ago.

“They’ve had a heavy load this semester,” said Dr. Harris. “They worked hard.”