Last night, as a steady stream of cars was heading into Northfield on Highway 19 for the St. Olaf Christmas Festival, I was heading in the opposite direction, bound for the Macalester College Choir concert in St. Paul. Although less famous than the St. Olaf Choir, the Macalester choir has a distinguished history. For many years, it was conducted by the great Dale Warland, and was later conducted by Kathy Romey, who now conducts the Minnesota Chorale. The current conductor is Dr. Eugene Rogers, who led the three ensembles—the Singing Scotsmen, the women's Hildegard Singers, and the combined Concert Choir—in a varied and exciting program that included pieces by Monteverdi and Bach, as well as modern compositions and arrangements, and a new piece for choir and Persian ney by Macalester composer Jan Gilbert.
For me, the highlight was the Bach cantata, BWV 150 (Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich), because it featured a solo by my friend and former student Peytie McCandless. But the centerpiece of the concert was the new work, which featured Dr. Hossein Omoumi on ney (reed flute) and vocals. (Click here for a short video which shows the unique emboucher with which the ney is played.) The piece was a beautiful and fascinating blend of Persian musical traditions and western choral singing, and drew a standing ovation from the audience. There were quite a few Iranians in the audience. After the concert, an enthusiastic young Iranian woman approached Peytie and complimented her on how well the choir had sung in Farsi.
The concert ended, according to Macalester tradition, with the singing of "Loch Lomond."
My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .
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