Cross Cultural Chorale

 

By Gerry Boyle '78
Photography by Susan Sterling
 

No surprise that the Colby Chorale enjoyed Vienna and Prague when the 68-member troupe visited in March. But the Colby group reveled in more than the museums and restaurants, the cafés and nightlife. The Colby Chorale and its director, Paul Machlin, marveled at the sound.

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The Colby College Chorale performs at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Prague.
Photo by Susan Sterling
Knowing that the chorale would be playing in cathedrals and major churches, Machlin had selected"and the students had rehearsed"what he thought appropriate material for venues like St. Nicholas Cathedral in Prague and Karlskirche (Karl's Church) and St. Peter's in Vienna. But even Machlin was deeply moved by the singers' powerful performances of the music.

"In those moments, it was like they were hearing these pieces the way they were meant to be heard," Machlin said.

"It was pretty awesome singing in that church," a chorale member reported in a message posted on the Web. "Our voices bounced off the stone walls around us and our breath rose as we sang."

Machlin said the acoustics were remarkable"created by stone walls enclosing vast spaces. The voices hung in the air, he said, taking on a new life in the cathedrals and churches. Adding to the experience was the knowledge that the chorale was surrounded by so much history. St. Stephen's in Vienna, for example, was the church Mozart attended.

At that church, an impromptu performance"Haec Dies, Ave Maria, and three Charles Villiers Stanford motets"began with an audience of 10 people. Within a few minutes, 150 had gathered.

Machlin attributed much of the magic to "the rightness of the place" for the music"something that wasn't lost on him as he was directing. "When it was happening," he said, "I was listening, too."