There’s an incredible energy that goes around campus when the Westminster Symphonic Choir starts a runout week. Everyone, whether they’re a member of the ensemble or not, has such an incredible glow with the spirit of Westminster Choir College. The Symphonic Choir is the largest ensemble on campus. Composed of juniors, seniors and graduate students, the Symphonic Choir performs with the world’s leading orchestras in venues spanning the mid-Atlantic. The Symphonic Choir started its season with a runout to Philadelphia to perform with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra with works by Beethoven and contemporary composer Nico Muhly. The Westminster Choir, which makes up the core of the Symphonic Choir, premiered Nico Muhly’s newly orchestrated Bright Mass with Canons for the same concert series.
Learning these pieces has been an incredible triumph. For the seniors and returning graduate students, learning Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony brought back memories of working with Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. The other Beethoven work, a smaller cantata named Meeres Stille und Glückliche Fahrt, was a sensation to perform. Its incredible stillness in the beginning truly set the mood for the entire performance.
Our first rehearsal with the orchestra and the maestro was quick paced, as our usual dress rehearsal on campus with the maestro did not occur as originally schedule. Yannick was unable to get to Princeton due to an overseas engagement. Dr. Miller led the rehearsal with his usual bursting energy and encouraged our professionalism for the next day’s rehearsal. On stage with the orchestra is such a vibrant feeling: one never forgets standing in the choir loft at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia and producing such an energetic sound, equally coupled with an electrifying conductor. We started the rehearsal with the Muhly piece, in which 56 members sang with a thinned orchestra. After a productive rehearsal, the whole choir joined together to sing through the two Beethoven pieces. If you’ve never heard a Symphonic Choir performance, I highly recommend listening to it sing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. What an electrifying sound!
After three performances, sitting on the buses chatting with excited friends and colleagues, it’s no wonder that the power of music has such a strong influence on our lives. Students are changed by this, and the audiences in the Philadelphia Orchestra concerts were witness to this incredible synergy. “Life-changing” can barely scratch the surface of descriptors needed to convey these wonderful emotions.