Massive'African Sanctus' by chorale truly special

 

BY WARREN GERDS

Green Bay Press-Gazette, Wisconsin

 

Dudley Birder Chorale of St Norbert College

 

An awesome work was performed magnificently Saturday night at the Weidner Center.

 

The Dudley Birder Chorale of St. Norbert College has put on extravaganzas in the past during its 26 years of existence.  This one was a corker.

 

The complexities surrounding the featured "African Sanctus" are too painful to recount. Be happy knowing a visual and musical mosaic created a special experience.

 

Composer David Fanshawe was on hand to explain his work for the 1,000 listeners. 

That took around 30 minutes alone - with photos to show, sounds to be heard, musical details to point out and enthusiasm to impart. When Fanshawe recreated a striking call to prayer that he was taught at a mosque in Cairo, the event took on an air of authenticity.

 

Fanshawe spent years traveling the Nile River. Like a sponge, he gathered sounds of peoples and nature. Then, back in England, he fused them into a music based in western religious music traditions. The result is refreshing to hear and invigorating to see and hear - a sweeping visual, musical and spiritual journey.

 

The piece thrives on its hybrid vigor.

 

Among the evening's outstanding elements:

 

Birder's direction. Everyone was prepared, including the 150-voice chorale, about 75 members of the Green Bay Boy and Girl choirs, a small orchestra, a flashy Ghanaian drumming expert (Sowah Mensah) and a wonderful operatic singer (Teresa Seidi).

 

Blending. Recorded sounds and live singing fit hand in glove.

 

Energy. The chorus erupted, especially in the Sanctus portions. For a tribal dance, the recorded sound throbbed in real ways throughout the hall.

 

Beauty. Amid the exotic sounds from far-away lands were movements built on music

familiar to western ears, featuring all the singers.

 

The evening also included the announcement of a fund drive, the performance of a Birder arrangement of "Let There Be Peace on Earth," a standing ovation for "African Sanctus" and an encore that Birder said was the only one he ever did in

Green Bay. It was of "The Lord's Prayer" movement, featuring all the singers in their glory.