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Choral consortium flows together

The Pomona College Choir performed “Water Ruminations” in both parts during the second half of the performance Saturday in cooperation with the Millennium Consort Singers. “Water Ruminations” was written by Tom Flaherty, as part of a series of six poems written throughout the 13th century by poet Rumi. The performance was directed by Millennium Consort Singers conductor Martin Neary. / photo by Cameron Barr

Amanda Nieto
Arts Editor

Swelling and surging voices wafted through Bridges Auditorium Saturday for a Choral Celebration with the Millennium Consort Singers and Pomona College Choir.

A full house came to hear a range of pieces from Tom Flaherty’s “Water Ruminations” to the work of Johann Sebastian Bach and Percy Grainger. The theme of the night centered on the element water in all its depths and variations.

“I love trying to blend with the voices around, and creating an openness that gels together,” Harriet Fraser, soprano from the Millennium Consort Singers, said.

In a space that resembled an 18th century English church, Bridges Auditorium was the perfect venue for a choir celebration. At the opposite end of the entrance, a massive organ sat on a balcony, and its large pipes that were encased in wood frames stretched to the high ceiling. The ceiling displayed intricate wood work with floral designs that ranged in color from red, green, blue, orange and yellow.

Nine men and nine women of the Millennium Consort Singers filed onto the stage just beneath the organ. The four voice sections harmonized in a hypnotizing way that turned in the air and poured softly into the ears of the audience members.

“Like as the Hart” by Herbert Howells began with the organ, played by Edward Murray. The organ had a subtle and strong presence that was shortly accompanied by the tenor and bass section. It then sank to a softer and somber rhythm that was set off beautifully by the altos and sopranos. Vibrations from the organ reached a sudden climax as it was met with a combination of all the voices.

The men reflected the heavier tones of the organ and contrasted with the softer notes that paired with the women. This division made a connecting circle of completion.

Throughout the night the audience members intently listened as they were transfixed on the choir’s presence.

Kate Kennelly, sophomore French major, said that the choir brought a greater resonance to the work.

In “The Blue Bird” by Charles Villiers Stanford, Fraser had a solo piece where her voice served as the foundation, and the voices of the choir were the helpers that lifted the work to perfection.

For the second half, the Pomona College Choir joined the Millennium Consort Singers.

“Collaborating with the Millennium Consort Singers was a really special experience; it’s not something you do every day,” Jeremy Shaffer, freshman tenor, said.

Part one of “Water Ruminations” began with chanting of words “inside water.” The mesmerizing give and take of the choir echoed the trickling of a stream that was gentle and yet commanded full attention.

Conductor Martin Neary had the choir hold longer pauses between each part, which built an energy of anticipation that almost quivered in the hall.

The organ then began part three with a flowing rhythm that blended with the drifting voices. Part four, titled “The Sweet Cold Water,” had the choir repeating rounds of simple lines.

The simplicity of “Water Ruminations” symbolized the clear, straightforwardness of water; however, the numerous voices added a complexity and depth that also characterized the element.

Fraser said that Flaherty’s piece was difficult and it was only over the last few rehearsals that it started to come together.

The Millennium Consort Singers and Pomona College Choir made for a dancing army of voices, combining elegance and strength.

“(Singing in a choir) brings depth to the work and you learn how to sing with others,” Shaffer said.

Amanda Nieto can be reached at

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