Chamber choir performs sacred music
On March 19, 2023, a full audience packed the Abbey church to listen to the inaugural concert of the Mount Angel Chamber Choir, directed by Myrna Keough, Associate Professor of Music at Mount Angel Seminary. Composed of monks, seminarians, and friends of Mount Angel, the chamber choir performed a repertoire of sacred music. The concert also included a piece by the Mount Angel Seminary Choir and some instrumental performances by monks and seminarians.
The chamber choir began, in part, as an answer to a deep hunger for live choral music after an absence of it for nearly two years due to the pandemic. During that time, a number of monks and seminarians asked Keough if she would consider starting a polyphony choir once group singing became possible again. With the help and support of the Mount Angel Institute, the chamber choir began rehearsals in the fall of 2022. While it was a breath of fresh air to be singing together, there was a steeper learning curve in rehearsals than initially expected. “I underestimated how much that the pandemic, almost two years of not singing, would affect all of us,” shares Keough.
The large turnout for the concert illustrated to Keough that “this really met a need or filled a niche, which is wonderful; there really isn’t another choir like this in this area.” The concert lasted nearly an hour, and the audience was invited to hold their applause until the conclusion of the final piece. The nature of the compositions and the silence between pieces, not to mention the venue of the Abbey church itself, created an atmosphere of reverence and awe. “My prayer coming into [the concert] was that people’s hearts really would experience some of the beauty of heaven and find comfort wherever they happened to be in that moment,” remarks Keough.
Keough specifically chose compositions that could be employed in the liturgy and enhance the beauty of it. “The kind of music that is easily learned and easily played and often played is not satisfactory when it comes up against the kinds of things that we’re all dealing with in our lives of faith,” she reflects. Having liturgical music that requires practice, patience, and excellence helps serve the need people have for a more profound experience of God.
– Ethan Alano