At the pre-show reception for the Amherst College Choral Society’s Family Weekend Concert, you could already get a feel for the event and hear students warming up backstage. After some brief socialization, families and other audience quickly funneled into the recital hall, filling most of the seats.
The choir opened the concert with “Gaudeamus Igitur,” which the program noted is possibly “the most well-known student song in the world.” There was no need for introduction, as the audience was rapt from the very start of the piece.
The choice of “Gaudeamus Igitur” for the first song was clever. Its brevity was a good way to capture the audience’s attention, getting them to anticipate the rest of the program. It was rather humorous to have the choir sing about celebrating youth to an audience of parents. After grounding the audience with a classic, the singers kept the concert fresh with a quick transition to the second song, “O Quam Gloriosum,” a peaceful song sang by the Concert Choir.
The transitions between pieces were fluid throughout the afternoon, as every song, no matter its contrast with the previous song, was transitioned into in a way that never felt disconnected or rushed. For the songs that weren’t well-suited for direct musical transitions, the various groups introduced the selections in confident and interesting ways.
As an example, for the sixth song of the program, “Chicken in a Raft,” the Glee Club came rushing down from the seats and leapt onstage. Everyone was immediately pulled in, and they succeeded in setting the stage for the actual performance.
The group did a wonderful job of creating the perfect atmosphere for the song both through the members’ body language as well as their vocals. Another song that stood out for its ability to move the crowd was “Still I Rise,” which was sung by the Women’s Chorus, and spoke to the power and perseverance of women.
The Choral Society as a whole was able to link diverse songs together throughout the concert; it made many of the songs stand out and memorable after the concert was over. Of these songs, “Little Innocent Lamb” was particularly engaging. It was a song of pure reverence to God. And even if you were not religious, you could still admire the joyful devotion and loyalty of the lyrics.
After the “Little Innocent Lamb” ended, there was a short intermission, during which it was evident how much the students of the choir cared about their performance. Some of the students were still looking over the music, while others were relaxing together in the back in order to avoid getting out of sync with the event.
But the biggest indication of the group’s dedication was when Choral Society Director Arianne Abela said to a student, “stop confessing your sins to me!” while encouraging the group of how well they were doing.
As the concert went on, none of the songs disappointed, with the last few performances particularly notable. The song “If I Say That You’re My Sister,” which songwriter Shara Nova premiered at the concert, started off the second half. Nova’s piece tackled the understanding of sisterhood in an informal and personal way, allowing for the audience to really connect to the music.
The last song “Bridge over Troubled Water” did a good job deepening the connection between the audience and the choir society. It made the audience feel like an irreplaceable friend that would be remembered even after they separated.
Overall, the entire concert was engaging and left the crowd wanting it to never end. It seemed the members of the Choral Society were satisfied as well. After the concert, Patrick Rauschelbach ’19 remarked that “the last three songs were better than [the choir] ever performed them.”