The lovely sound of the Manitou Singer’s, the first-year women’s choir, opening song rang through Boe Chapel to signal the beginning of the Manitou/Viking Spring Concert on Saturday, April 13. The singers, robed in forest green, surrounded the audience members while conductor Therees Tkach Hibbard stood leading the ensemble in the front of the chapel.  Family, friends, fellow St. Olaf musicans and more filled the seats of Boe while Viking chorus waited in the front row for their turn to sing.

Eventually, Manitou processed onstage to begin their formal set. Garrett Bond ’19 accompanied Manitou Singers on piano. The first Manitou piece began with a reading from one of the singers, and incorporated a violinist, Grace Brigham ’20.

Throughout each of their pieces, Manitou remained focused and animated, with a beautiful, connected sound echoing into the space. Their set contained music in various languages, speeds and volumes, also conveying a myriad of emotion. St. Olaf choral ensembles have been criticized in the past for choosing repertoire with mostly religious undertones, but Dr. Hibbard did an excellent job finding music from outside of religious sources to diversify the concert.

A few songs into their set, Dr. Hibbard stepped away from the conductor’s podium to allow Isabella Gentleman ’19, a B.M. church music major who spent this year as the Assistant Director of Manitou, to conduct a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.”

“Family, friends, fellow St. Olaf musicians and more filled the seats of Boe while Viking chorus waited in the front row for their turn to sing.” – Katie Anderson ’20

At the end of Manitou’s set, guest singers from the Twin Cities Gay Mens Chorus performed their pieces. Their songs also incorporated a wide variety of languages and cultures, including a piece in Latvian.

Finally, Viking Chorus, the first-year men’s choir, who had been waiting patiently for an hour, came onstage with their conductor, Tesfa Wondemagegnehu.

Wondemagegnuhu, who is completing his first year at St. Olaf, began with a conversation regarding spirituals, slavery and marginalized communities. While Viking sung their first piece, a spiritual based on Wondemagegnehu’s opening statement, Alekz Thoms ’20, created a painting based on the music.

While Viking is smaller than Manitou, they sang with joyful facial expressions, energy and clarity.

In particular, Wondemagegnehu should be commended for his conducting work. As a new conductor this year, it was a popular opinion that he had large shoes to fill as he came into previous Viking conductor. Mark Stover’s, position. However, he filled this position wonderfully with a well-planned set of music and a blended choir. One piece even contained a rap and several songs had solo opportunities for the singers.

The concert concluded with Manitou and the Twin Cities Gay Mens Chorus joining Viking back onstage for a joint piece, “Shenandoah,” conducted by a member of the Twin Cities Gay Mens Chorus. The two choirs then sung the traditional St. Olaf choir piece, “Beautiful Savior,” known as the final piece of Christmas Festival each year.

This concert is especially important for musicians as it marks the beginning of the St. Olaf choral experience for  many students interested in choral music. From here, many musicians in Viking and Manitou will choose to audition for an upper-level ensemble, including the St. Olaf Choir, Chapel Choir or Cantorei.

anders43@stolaf.edu