FGCU Chamber Choir performs world premiere of ‘Odysseus and the Sirens’

The Bower School of Music at FGCU hosted its annual fall choir concert Sunday, Oct. 18.
The performance was split between Bower’s two choir ensembles with a brief intermission between.
The chamber choir took the stage first, joyfully singing William Byrd’s “Sing Joyfully.” This ensemble — conducted by Trent Brown, D.M.A. — is audition-based, which was clear to anyone present at the fall concert. The level of skill and manner in which the performers presented themselves were leagues above what one usually anticipates upon hearing they are still students.
The following pieces, as moving as they were, did not bring the chamber choir’s half to its peak until the performance of Wolfram Buchenberg’s “Erbarme dich unser” from Vier geistliche Gesänge. Senior Stephanie LeSueur’s soprano flitted above the other voices, slowly at first, but by the end, it was hard to recall it had not been a solo piece from the start.
Soon after, Brown brought up onto the stage Jeanie Darnell, D.M.A., the co- associate professor of music at FGCU, and Marco Ferri, an FGCU student and violinist, for the world premiere of Z. Randall Stroope’s “Odysseus and the Sirens.” The piece was written upon the university’s request as a thank you to Darnell for her 10 years of dedicated vocal instruction. Unlike most university
choir performances, the crowd at the fall concert was thus treated to a special instance of hearing Darnell as the solo soprano for a movement.
The pieces tapered off in their dramatic flair from there on out, flowing into an intermission that allowed the university choir, which is more than double the size of chamber choir, time to line up and take the stage.
Though the first piece of the university’s half was not as dramatic in its timbre or dynamics, the sheer size of the ensemble and its ability to remain unified in a four-movement piece was astounding. This is especially impressive considering these performers are simply students enrolled in MUN 1310 – University Choir, a general education humanities course.
“Will those of you who are not music majors please raise your hands?” Brown said after the first piece. Nearly half of the ensemble’s hands shot up to a chorus of gasps from the audience.
So, no experience, audition or major is required to be a part of university choir, but that surely did not stop the ensemble from achieving a similarly high standard — a near-impossible feat coming after the chamber choir’s breathtaking performance.
The fall concert served as a preview of what is to come in chamber choir’s upcoming Florida American Choral Directors Association performance. Chamber choir will be traveling to Seminole State College for the FL-ACDA 2015 conference Nov. 6 to 7.