Knox and Monmouth Colleges to Host Composer, Combine Choirs

April 22, 2014

Knox College Choir, Laura Lane, Director

Renowned composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi will meet with students at Knox College and Monmouth College and give two public lectures, during a six-day residency, April 28 through May 3. Choral groups from the two colleges will perform a combined concert on May 2, featuring the world premiere of a new work by Mäntyjärvi commissioned by the colleges.

The concert is free and open to the public at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 2, in Central Congregational Church on the Public Square in Galesburg.

Jaakko MantyjarviIn all, nine works by Mäntyjärvi will be performed at the concert. Choral groups performing are the Knox College Choir, Knox College Chamber Singers and Nova Singers, all directed by Laura Lane, professor of music and director of choral activities at Knox College; and Monmouth College Chorale, Monmouth Chamber Choir and Galesburg Community Chorus, all directed by Tim Pahel, assistant professor of music and director of choral and vocal activities at Monmouth College.

"This will be a unique and historic concert," Lane said. "Historic, because it's the first time that choirs from Monmouth and Knox have come together to form a unified choral ensemble, and the first time that Monmouth and Knox have jointly commissioned a choral work. And it's unique in that each choir will sing one piece by the composer, concluding with the world premiere of the commissioned work, 'When I heard the learned astronomer.' The composer will attend the concert and talk briefly about each piece before it's performed."

"Jaakko Mäntyjärvi is an internationally recognized composer who has written works for many prestigious groups, and we are lucky to be added to that list," Pahel said. "We are also excited to be bringing the Knox College Choir and the Monmouth College Chorale together for this concert. Each choir is very good on its own, and we know that the sound of the two groups together, with 100 voices, will be spectacular."

Mäntyjärvi will give two free, public lectures about his work, at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 30 in the Barnes Electronic Classroom, Hewes Library, Monmouth College; and at 4 p.m., Friday, May 2, in Jay Hall, Ford Center for the Fine Arts, Knox College.

Mäntyjärvi is a Finnish translator and composer of more than 100 published choral works. From 2000 to 2005 he was composer-in-residence of the Tapiola Chamber Choir in Finland, and he has also taught at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki.

"When I heard the learned astronomer" was jointly commissioned by the Knox College Choir and the Monmouth College Chorale. The colleges are also sharing the expense of the composer's visit. Mäntyjärvi will spend one day in residence at each college, visiting classes and meeting informally with students. He will also work with the choral groups prior to the performance.

"The commissioned work is a setting of two texts, one in Latin by Copernicus and one in English by Walt Whitman," said Pahel, who will direct the premiere. "The text by Copernicus talks about the solar system revolving around the sun. The text by Whitman is a commentary on two different ways of seeing the world -- the Copernican view, which is scientific and rational, and Whitman's view, which can be interpreted as mystical and non-rational. Mäntyjärvi effectively reflects the two different world views and beautifully portrays how the narrator at the end of the Whitman poem looks up and gazes at the stars."

Mäntyjärvi's composition is "haunting and mysterious, full of the tension between the two ideas -- reason and emotion -- and leads the listener to an extraordinary conclusion," Lane said. "This is a great gift to the community that Knox and Monmouth can jointly provide. Mäntyjärvi is one of the most famous choral composers in the world today, and Tim and I are very excited about collaborating to create something unique."