Strings & Choir

Yesterday I attended another performance by the Bruce Nehring Consort of El Paso. This one featured Charles Gray, a violinist and conductor from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and substitute violinist with the Minnesota Orchestra.

The concert focused on choral and orchestral works of Haydn and Mendelssohn. 2009 is the 200th anniverary of Haydn’s death and Mendelssohn’s birth.

Once again I was impressed with the Lutheran music. The concert began with a double choir Sanctus by Mendelssohn. Later on they also sang a Kyrie by Mendelssohn and Herzliebster Jesu (O Dearest Jesus) in a setting by John Ferguson.

One thing that especially struck me this time is just how much a difference good acoustics make. Professor Gray spoke about a few of the pieces—sans microphone or sound system—and you could hear him just fine. I just thought to myself how much easier it would be to preach in such a space. I know that the ideal acoustics for music are not the same as for speaking, but I regularly feel like I need to shout in order to be heard. 

Bruce Nehring, the director of this group, is a consultant in church acoustics and pipe organ design. He is apparently very concerned about the acoustics of the spaces in which they perform. He had actually received some criticism for using churches for many concerts—not only because much of the music was originally written for the church, but also because the churches were frequently spaces that enhance the sound of the music. Here is a quote from the program from yesterday:

“This belief in architectural proportions to musical sound piqued Nehring’s interest in using spaces not usually thought of as concert halls which led to his use of the Union Depot for concerts.”

The Union Depot is El Paso’s train station, built by the same architect as Washington D.C.’s Union Station.