As the Fall Term nears its close and students start to focus on studying for finals, MHCC performing arts singers and musicians are preparing for their end-of the-term concerts happening next week with fresh energy.
Choir Director Kevin Lambert is as excited as ever for this year’s fall concerts, because for him and the choir students, this year is a little different: In the past, he has often opted to have choir concerts off-campus because he was unsatisfied with the aging, worn-out grand piano available for performances in the College Theatre here.
That changed when the college purchased a brand new piano to replace it going into this school year.
“We are really looking forward to showing off this beautiful instrument on stage. It’s going to be used in two nights of concerts,” Lambert said.
The first of these concerts is on Wednesday, Dec. 6, and features the Mt. Hood orchestra, and the symphonic and chamber choirs.
This fall, Lambert decided to put the chamber choir to the test and tackle a seven-song set titled “Autumn Landscapes” which takes roughly 15 minutes to perform and is entirely a capella.
“It’s all poetry that shows different visual imagery about autumn falling away into winter,” he explained. He said that he’s always been drawn to this piece, and he’s performed it before, but really wanted to conduct it himself.
The Estonian composer Veljo Tormis passed away in January, and Lambert knew the timing was finally right, and it solidified his wanting to program this music.
To perform such a long, cohesive, piece of music is no easy task. “I don’t necessarily know, coming into the school year, who is going to be in choir, and how fast the groups are going to move, so it’s a big risk,” Lambert said. “But the students have taken that challenge and run with it and they’ve done a really good job.”
The symphonic choir is up for a similar undertaking. The singers will be performing a set of three madrigals, a style of music from the Renaissance, but modernized versions that were written roughly 20 years ago that are set to Shakespeare texts from 400 years ago, including “Much Ado About Nothing.”
While these concerts may be happening in December, don’t expect to hear a bunch of familiar holiday music.
“I tend not to program too much explicit holiday music, but one of the songs that I’m most excited about on this particular concert I have done on Christmas concerts before,” said Lambert: The two choirs will join together to finish with “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen, who died just over one year ago.
“The refrain from the song has really beautiful words with a message that is really important to me,” said Lambert. “I take (the refrain) to mean that all of us are imperfect, and we’re all special as people. We all have something to give to our friends, family, community and world, and that doesn’t necessarily mean we need to be perfect in everything that we do.”
Meantime, the orchestra will be performing a piece that may have listeners tearing up as their minds flashback to scenes from the latest popular Hollywood musical, “La La Land.” That’s right: the orchestra will perform “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme.”
The following evening, Thursday, Dec. 7, MHCC’s symphonic band and jazz ensemble will play.
The symphonic band is playing four pieces of music including “Holst Winter Suite” by Gustav Holst, arranged by Robert W. Smith, and “Rhapsody” by James Curnow, which features MHCC private lesson faculty member Aaron Eckert on euphonium.
Both the Wednesday and Thursday concerts will run for approximately 90 minutes. There will also be two shorter concerts, ranging closer to 30-45 minutes, for the small ensemble groups that feature a handful of students in each.
All of these concerts are free in the College Theatre, so anyone can enjoy hearing the hard work of MHCC’s performing arts students.