Welcoming the Rain on a Gloomy Sunday with the Flowing Melodies of the Bates College Choir

Sunday, the 13th of November brought with it cloudy skies, drizzles of rain and a gray overcast that seemed to lazily swallow the campus whole. 

To my distaste, it was the epitome of a gloomy Sunday. 

However, despite the less-than-stellar conditions, I found myself joining a large handful of students in a hasty walk down to the Olin Arts Center; our shoes muddied with the wet grass of the quad and our hoods failing to keep our eyes dry from the scattered rain, but nevertheless with a slight bounce in our steps in anticipation of the choir show.   

The concert hall welcomed its audience as a warm shelter from the blandness of the outside, vibrating with the familiar hum of pre-show conversation. Students hurried to their seats, setting aside layers of damp clothing and flipping through the program book, faces occasionally lighting up in recognition of a friend’s name. The anticipation was flowing through the crowd seamlessly.

It was at 3:00 p.m. when the lights finally began to dim, and the soft glow of the stage lights illuminated the hall. The Bates College Choir was greeted with rounds of applause as they entered the stage, followed by the conductor, Joёlle Morris, and the pianist, Chiharu Naruse.

To give some context into the song selection for this particular concert, the show was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Clean Water Act, celebrating Bates alum Senator Edmund Muskie ‘36 and his contributions to making this legislation possible. Consequently, the selection of songs featured themes of nature, water and climate, aiming to elicit imagery focused around nature and the human condition through music, leaving the audience with a thought-provoking and impactful performance. 

And how they succeeded. 

Although each song and piece of poetry stood for itself and created its own unique atmosphere, it was clear they were weaved together, narrating the same story. Each piece was captivatingly lyrical. 

 The opening piece Weathers perfectly encapsulated the idyllic nature of a rainy day, coincidentally mimicking the showers that continued to pour outside that day outside the theater. The piano provided a complimentary rain-like tinkling to the vocals, stringing together a pleasant lilt that seemed to carry the audience through the motions of traveling water.  

Cantique de Jean Racine, Op.11 brought with it a harp performance by Viriginia Flanagan, enveloping the hall in a mystical ambiance. The vocals rumbled low to start, but slowly began to drift higher until reaching their crescendo, perhaps mimicking the rhythmic rise and fall of tides. I vividly remember feeling the goosebumps crawl up my arm within the first few notes, amazed at the realization that a tune so seemingly dulcet could evoke such intense emotions. The introduction of the harp provided a pleasantly consistent lull to the already flowy nature of the songs, simply a delight to hear.

To top it off, the highlight of the show came at the very end with a performance of Let the River Run, combining percussion instruments with vocals and piano — resulting in a melody filled with sheer ebullience. The audience was clearly elated at the tune. I thoroughly enjoyed the mixture of different instruments in a manner that seemed slightly genre bending and unconventional; it was incredibly refreshing. The song was carried through with such ease that I could do nothing but surrender to wearing a huge smile on my face as I gently swayed to the beat. 

Despite the calming nature of the show, I felt a slight buzz of energy while leaving Olin, once again greeting the gray cloud that continued to weep rain down on us. Although this time, I found myself able to appreciate the tinkling sounds of raindrops hitting rooftops and the swishing sound of water traveling down the roads. I think we all left the choir show a little less reluctant to face the dull, wet Sunday that lay ahead of us, as we could not help but notice the thrum of music that existed in each sound that accompanied the rain.