Singing with the Centuries:
by Elliot R. Mandel ’04
Three days after striding across the Carver Arena stage, diploma in hand, I found myself strolling through the middle of Copenhagen with the Bradley University Chorale. By most accounts, I am an honorary member; my cello and I have had the privilege in the last four years of accompanying the Chorale on five concert tours throughout the United States and Europe. Last May, I once again joined director Dr. John Jost and his troupe of 40 singers, along with two violin students and soprano Dr. Kerry Walters, on the Chorale’s nine-day tour of Denmark.
We opened the tour in Copenhagen’s Holmens Kirke, the church of the Danish Royal Navy, sharing the bill with the church’s choir. In addition to one of Mozart’s short masses, our program featured music from a variety of artistic periods in French, Latin, Italian, English, and Mongolian, concluding with three African-American spirituals. The Holmens choir treated us to a post-concert reception, providing an opportunity for the Chorale to meet young Danish musicians and to compare cultures.
After a few days in Copenhagen and our second concert across the Øresund in Malmö, Sweden, the Chorale was greeted by a familiar face. Peter Etrup Larsen visited Bradley’s music department two years ago, and now welcomed us not only to Denmark, but also to his small, harbor-side hometown of Rørvig. Peter gave us a brief bus tour of the Danish countryside, relaying information about the region’s many centuries-old churches, and pointing out Viking burial mounds which frequently dot a landscape shaped by Ice Age glacial activity, now awash in various shades of green.
That night, we prepared for our third concert, but we were not prepared for the experience. The 900-year-old Nykøbing Sjælland church, named for its surrounding village, quickly filled to capacity. We began our program and were later joined by Bradley professors, Drs. Ed and Janet Kaiser, who shared the piano bench to perform a few jazz duets. By the time the Chorale returned for the second half of the concert, the audience was applauding in unison after each piece, a phenomenon of appreciation common to many European countries. Throughout the concert, the church was filled with a seamless alternation of music and applause. Finally, after two encores, we sent our gracious hosts home with a rousing rendition of the Danish National Anthem.
After more than a week of singing and sightseeing throughout this small country, we performed for our final time in the largest cathedral in Denmark, the Domkirke in the former Viking capital of Roskilde. The massive Domkirke is Denmark’s equivalent to London’s Westminster Abbey, the burial site of Danish royalty. We performed our sacred music on this last afternoon of the tour, basking in the resonance of our sound among the thick stone pillars and distant chambers of this mighty building, the pride of Danish culture.
Later, we enjoyed a wonderful farewell dinner of fresh salmon, another pride of the Danes. The Chorale sang one final chord of my college memories as the sun painted a pink and purple descent over the Roskilde Fjord.
Elliot R. Mandel ‘04 was named the 2004 Olive B. White Outstanding Creative Writing Student by the English department. He lives in Glen Ellyn when not traveling stateside and abroad.
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