Historical, cultural concert last of semester

The final choir concert of the semester at Laramie County Community College will reprise the historically themed and culturally conscious concert "Stabat Mater" at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 29, at St. Mary's Cathedral.

"Stabat Mater" was written by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins in 2008. In it, he combined musical influences from the West, with ones from the Arab culture and the Eastern hemisphere. The play is done entirely in foreign languages, some of which are Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. Some songs feature all the languages at once. "It's a very sacred piece," said Nancy Cornish, who is the director of this concert. "It does a great job of blending cultures."

Cornish said she happened upon the project a few years ago when Dr. Jonathan Griffith of the Distinguished Concerts International New York invited her and her students to sing it at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Afterward, she decided it would be a good idea to give the concert its Rocky Mountain debut. After high praise, the concert will be brought back.

"The piece is great in the way it's set up," Cornish said. "It makes you think it's going one direction, with keys and melodies, and then completely shifts course. It stays fresh throughout the entire concert."

What some may find most unique about the concert is the use of foreign languages. The concert may utilize musical themes from the West, but most of the languages in the concert are from countries in the Eastern hemisphere. Singing in languages like Greek and Latin is a skill the choir students must master.

"It's a hard task, but it's one they gladly take on," Cornish said. "Some of them already know Latin from literature we have studied."

The piece tells a story that takes place during the time of Christ's crucifixion, so its emotional resonance is enhanced with the concert taking place at St. Mary's Cathedral, Cornish said. And it's not just because of the acoustics.

"The symbolism makes it a very special place to do the concert," Cornish said. "It helps in bringing all the elements of the piece together."

Being asked to reprise the concert by fans makes one wonder why it has such a residual effect. This query is especially curious given the fact most people won't be able to understand the words coming from the singers' mouths.

"The resonance of the piece is very strong," Cornish said. "It's mournful. The natural lushness makes it all the more expressive, and it ends with a high feeling of hope."

"Stabat Mater" is not the only composition to be sung. The concert will end with a piece called "Baba Yetu," which means "The Lord's Prayer" in Swahili.

The concert is free, but donations will be accepted on behalf of the Veterans Administration Medical Center. The donations will specifically benefit soldiers who have served time in combat areas.

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