Music can truly be a conduit to great emotion. Have you ever had a piece of music that brings you to tears or makes you smile?
As a performer, I have had many instances of this happening. I have always felt my senses heightened when performing. It is like a sensory stimulation, I suppose. I hear everything, smell everything, and see everything a bit more clearly. I had a moment during the beginning of my senior recital when I was performing Bach and felt this overwhelming feeling of love and competence. It was slightly euphoric. There were moments during my master’s recital when the same type of feeling occurred. It was that moment when you cease to feel any kind of nervous and become so involved that you forget about all the people watching you.
Today, I wanted to share four choral pieces that have moved me in the past and continue to greatly move me. I am not one for sharing a lot of non-piano pieces but I have been thinking about these pieces quite a lot lately.
1. “Sleep” by Eric Whitacre
I am a sucker for music by Eric Whitacre. The harmonies that he uses are beyond gorgeous. It is hard to pick just one of his pieces to share with you but this is going to be the one.
2. “Come Sweet Death” by J.S. Bach
I fell in love with this piece when I was at Idaho State doing my undergraduate work. My Freshman year, the chamber choir sang this song. This is pure beauty by Bach and not necessarily something that I would ever associate with him. Theoretically, this piece is amazing and aurally as well. My heart weeps a bit every time I hear this piece of music.
You may want to watch this one with closed eyes. I love this group singing this piece but not so much their costumes. It was a Halloween concert and they are all dressed like the dead. Spare me.
3. “Kyrie” by René Clausen
This is one of the only choral pieces that I have had the opportunity to perform as a member of the choir and nearly not make it all the way through. Again, back at Idaho State, my Senior year I was a member of the Concert Choir. We performed this piece on the final concert of my undergraduate career. I remember singing it and feeling so overwhelmed that tears came to my eyes. I remember visiting with our choral professor, Mark Lawler, the Monday after the concert. He asked me what I felt was the best piece from the concert. I told him the impressions I had from this piece. I do not know if it was the strongest of our set but I felt (and still do) that is was the most powerful. I have a recording of that concert and will listen to it every so often. When I do so, I listen and relisten to this piece and still feel the tears some to my eyes. I think it has to do with the absolute pleading tone of the piece. There is a part toward the end when the women start singing “Adonai” over and over – it gets me every time.
This is part of a set called Memorial. This larger work was written as a reflection of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The entire set is eerily beautiful. I hunted down a recording and listen to it regularly.
4. “Sanctus” by Craig Courtney
I was first introduced to this piece by attending a choral concert during my master’s program. My friend (and at-that-time roommate) was in the chamber choir and they performed this piece. I remember telling her after that I was going to have this piece sung at my funeral. I still feel that way. So, if I die in the near future, can someone make sure that happens? I think this is one of the most beautiful pieces I have heard in my entire life. I get tears in my eyes every single time I listen to it.
So, there you have the gist of my soul. At least the portion of my soul that adores choral music. I will forever be a pianist and the love of piano music will be number one for me. Choral music, however, touches me in a way that instrumental music just cannot.
What are your favorite pieces of music that bring out strong emotion in you? Be it choral, instrumental, or something from the Top 40, I’d love to hear from you!