Sharing the darkness of American history through student voices during this politically tense time, Gonzaga Concert Choir performed “America the Beautiful” on Oct. 10 for Fall Family Weekend.
Their goal was to encourage listeners to reflect upon the lyrics in the song to pick out phrases that resonated with them or uncovered the thoughts and actions that our country was built upon.
Katherine Lee Bates created the 1911 version of “America the Beautiful," the traditional, most common version of the song. GU Concert Choir sang the 1970s version, created by Shawn Kirchner. This version focused on acknowledging the mistakes made in American history and how we are moving forward to a more inclusive nation.
“I think that this re-imagination of such a traditionally patriotic song presents a poignant vision that empowers Gonzaga students and our community to strive for a brighter future, especially amidst such division and unrest,” said Timothy Westerhaus, director of choirs and vocal studies.
GU Concert Choir’s performance filled the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center with beautiful harmonies and interesting perspectives.
“Our students felt moved by the acknowledgments ‘that other’s loss bought selfish gain,’ and ‘oh sorrowful, for captive feet in chains against their will,’ addressing the enslavement of African Americans, the genocide of Indigenous People and other atrocious acts in our history,” said Karlee Ludwig, social media and community outreach coordinator for GU Concert Choir.
This performance was livestreamed and shared on the Gonzaga University YouTube channel, Gonzaga University Choirs Facebook page and Instagram @guchoirs. No live audiences were allowed to attend this event or any event this year, however GU Choirs have found unique ways to connect with students and community.
Slido is one of the ways that GU Choirs have connected people to their performances. Slido is a program that allows people to watch performances and submit their comments, questions and thoughts for the members of the choir to see. They project this program in the Coughlin Theatre in the MWPAC. It makes audience interaction just a little bit easier.
“Though our music-making and our choral community looks different than it has in past semesters, I feel so grateful as a student to be able to safely participate in and connect with this community,” Ludwig said.
This performance is just an easy click away and it is worth checking out. GU Concert Choir worked on this for five weeks before the livestream.
“There is so much division and lack of listening to different perspectives and this song aims to invite us to consider the grey area, celebrating what is beautiful, owning the history of violence and oppression and also envision a more inclusive future,” Westerhaus said.
During this time of unrest and division, GU Concert Choir is excited to create music that connects current events, history and music.
GU Concert Choir is preparing for their annual Candlelight Christmas Concert. This concert will be live-streamed on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 13 at 3:00 p.m. With performances from culturally diverse composers, the GU Concert Choir centers it’s message around seeking inspiration during times of loss and darkness.
Follow GU Concert Choirs on Instagram @guchoirs to stay updated and learn more about “America the Beautiful” and upcoming events.