SCC’S CHOIRS CHANNEL THE MIDDLE GROUND
What does light and shadow sound like? At SCC’s year-end choir performance featuring Chamber Chorale and Shoreline Singers, audience members will have the chance to find out.
SCC choir instructor Evan Norberg shared some insight regarding the repertoire and theme of the forthcoming concert as well as the achievements that both choirs have accomplished along the way.
Originally from San Diego, California, Norberg attended Edmonds Community College before eventually earning his Masters degree in Choral Conducting and Vocal Performance at Central Washington University.
Along with having taught at SCC for three years, Norberg’s current musical endeavors include conducting local choir Wellspring Ensemble and singing with Choral Arts Northwest as well as vocal jazz group Last Call.
“At any given time I have probably 70 to 80 songs in my head,” he says.
Meet the Choirs
Although they are both SCC choirs, Chamber Chorale and Shoreline Singers bear a number of technical differences.
Anyone can join Chamber Chorale, whereas students must audition for Shoreline Singers. For this reason, Shoreline Singers can move toward higher-level concepts quicker while Chamber Chorale spends more time in the learning process.
Shoreline Singers also works to a more extensive and rigorous degree than Chamber Chorale, with a repertoire that is generally more a cappella — meaning they sing less pieces accompanied by piano.
Norberg says that he typically tries to choose music that is approachable to the ability level of each choir, giving each group a mix of a couple of easy and hard pieces.
Light and Shadow
SCC’s June 13 performance, “Passages — Light and Shadow,” will be performed at First Lutheran Church of Richmond Beach.
Norberg drew inspiration for the theme by thinking back to a piece called “Lead Kindly Light” — one that Kirk Marcy, a close friend and mentor of his, wrote for the memorial service following the death of Marcy’s wife.
Having sung it at the service, it has remained a special piece that has stuck with Norberg ever since.
Deciding to transform the idea of life and death into an uplifting subject for his own concert, Norberg was inspired to include a number of pieces that evoke imagery of campfires, mountains and starry night skies.
“I’m hoping that in the theme itself, there’s this transportive idea,” Norberg says, noting that the theme deals with not just the passage from one place to another, but of time and memories.
The entirely a cappella “Lead Kindly Light” will be sung by Shoreline Singers at the concert. It’s a touching piece that Norberg describes as sounding sonorous and “very thick in its design.”
Chamber Chorale will kick off their set with “Due North: No. 1 Mountains,” a piece that Norberg says will act as a “fanfare-ish opening” with plenty of spacey, chordal harmonies.
“It’s almost like you’re walking through the mountains and you want to yodel across and you hear an echo back,” he says. “That’s sort of the idea in the church — there’ll be this big flashy start.”
The optimistic piece will be bright and glassy, with plenty of straight tones intended to produce the ethereal image of a mountain range in the viewer’s head.
Audience members can also look forward to an a cappella Sanskrit piece called “Gamaya,” which will feature dissonant layers of sound being built in a minor key while a member of Chamber Chorale plays a djembe drum.
The piece deals with transformational themes of untruth to truth, death to immortality and darkness to light.
“Gamaya” is darker and more thought-provoking than “Due North: No. 1 Mountains,” Norberg says, and will end with a continuous mantra on peace to create meditative effect.
Shoreline Singers will also begin on a strong note with “O Radiant Dawn.”
Its lyrics, which Norberg compares to a sunrise, hold sacred metaphors of dwelling in darkness and seeing light.
Although it starts strong, Norberg says it becomes slightly more subtle by the end, referring to it as “a really beautiful piece.”
A piece entitled “Zigeunerleben,” which Norberg describes as “fun” and “Germanic,” presents a tale of free-spirited gypsies setting up camp and telling stories around a campfire before finally going to sleep.
As the sun rises, Norberg describes that they pack everything up and head off to their next destination. “No one knows where they’re going next because they’re so transient in nature,” he says. “It’s kind of a neat image within the theme.”
Although “Zigeunerleben” depicts its subjects drinking from the waters of the Nile, it could also provide a window into the lives of gypsies who existed at the time of the piece’s composition in the mid-1800s.
“I imagine that these people around a campfire have mugs of beer and they’re sort of dancing around and telling stories,” Norberg says. “It’s very fanciful.”
A Host of Highlights
Norberg says that a major highlight of the quarter took place in April, when both SCC choirs took the stage at Shorewood High School to perform four Mozart movements entitled “Vesperae Solennes de Confessore” (or “Vespers”) in conjunction with Edmonds Community College and Edmonds-Woodway High School.
SCC’s choirs only had two and a half weeks to learn the music. “It was really a great challenge, and now I know it’s possible,” he says.
Norberg recalls the frantic yet exciting rush to rehearse the material. “At first it was ‘hurry up and learn it,’ and then after that it was ‘okay, we got this, this is going to be fine,’” he says.
Along with getting to perform the major work, Norberg says another highlight was the simple joy of witnessing the students realizing they could achieve major progress in such little time.
“The light bulbs go off and ‘bam’ — they nail something so quickly,” he says of these “aha” moments. “A lot of these students have never had an experience like that.”
Chamber Chorale and Shoreline Singers will be joining forces to reprise Mozart’s “Vespers” for the finale of “Passages — Light and Shadow.”
A Universal Language
“I’m all about emotions and really connecting with people,” Norberg says, describing how he feels that every piece will have an aspect that will spark an emotion or memory in the minds of audience members — even the German pieces, whose jovial nature transcends language.
“Everybody’s gonna have this smile on their face even if they have no idea what’s going on.” Norberg says.
To many, music can also be therapeutic.
“I tell (my) students when they come into rehearsals, ‘let’s leave our baggage at the door, and let’s just make some wonderful music,’” he says. “The same could be said to those coming into a concert like this.”
The evening’s repertoire may provide the audience with a means of escape. “These students have worked really, really hard to create some amazing music and I think it will help to transport us into a more relaxed state in this hustle and bustle of the world,” he says.
Among a number of lasts, this concert will mark the final time that graduating choir students will be performing at this particular venue, which according to Norberg means “a lot of misty eyes.”
Norberg hopes that audience members will walk away from the performance feeling refreshed, hopeful, and that they’ve gotten the chance to explore their own emotions and thoughts.
“Passages — Light and Shadow” is a free concert that will be held at First Lutheran Church of Richmond Beach at 7:30 p.m. on June 13.