A week has passed, and with it, a world of experiences, sights, sounds, and as always, excellent food. Tonight we make our final Spoleto appearance in St. Matthew Passion at the Sottile Theatre, marking my final appearance as a Westminster student alongside the 13 other Westminster Choir members who have recently graduated. I have done my best to savor each moment, and in the process, have failed to commit each to pen and paper (or, I suppose, keyboard and word processor. But that lacks a certain poetic grace). So in this hour or so before our final Bach dress, I bring you my reflections on this week’s happenings.
Our final performance of The Invention of Love was bittersweet. As more than a handful of audience members remarked to me afterwards, they’ve come to expect the deluge of tears that marks the end of this annual performance. I will admit full guilt in this regard as I sobbed my way through our encore (Elder’s Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star) and the Lutkin.
My sadness at the passing of this milestone was soothed as I spent time with a handful of recent alumni whose time in the choir overlapped with mine. After the concert, we caught up over adjective drinks at the Gin Joint, where I encountered the “refreshing” and “spicy” white elephant, an excellent complement to my refreshing and spicy company. Then, I relived my sophomore year Spoleto experience by having a midnight poetry reading with alumni Drew Lusher and Josh Wanger. The works of Mary Oliver, Rosario Castellanos, and (thanks to Drew) a well-timed Psalm made an appearance. Conversation ebbed and flowed from the idealistic to the ridiculous as we sacrificed our legs to the mosquitos of Charleston. I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic way to transition from current student to alumna.
Our next endeavor was our two presentations of Daughter for Spoleto audiences. As the choir is (shockingly) composed of singers, chances to collaborate with dancers mesmerize us. Between their coordination, grace, and intricate movement vocabulary, we often are reduced to the fumbling state attributed to what are colloquially referred to as “fangirls.” Our performances of Daughter gave us ample opportunity to revel in the glories of dance as the staging for David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion featured dancers Kaitlyn Gilliland and Max van der Sterre, guided by the choreographic prowess of Pontus Lidberg.
Having now lived with this piece for several months, it was fascinating to see how the addition of dance changed the direction of the work. The choir, clad in greyscale professional wear, took on the roles of ordinary business people as we went about our daily lives. Our comparatively simple movements compounded the visual narrative as we completely ignored Kaitlyn, who portrayed the character of the Little Match Girl. While this staging was effective, it was somewhat upsetting to perform. To embody the act of remaining complacent in the sight of cruelty required inordinate amounts of self-control for my bleeding-INFJ heart. That being said, few things excite me more than the prospect of using music and performance to illuminate larger systemic issues. So I’m really not complaining at all.
Following Sunday’s performance, we made our annual choir pilgrimage to Pantheon. What could possibly be more amusing than seeing a herd of choristers attempt to grace the dance floor, particularly as our far more skilled dancer counterparts Kaitlyn, Max, and Pontus joined us for the event? But we did our best. In the sage words of alumna Allison Miller, “sometimes you just need to dance it out.” And that we did. We cavorted until the wee hours of the morning, fully aware that a large portion of the next day (our day off) would be spent napping off the energy expenditure of the night before.