The Gustavus Adolphus College Choir is meeting an impressive invitation with an equally impressive response.
The 62-member, male and female ensemble directed by Greg Aune is performing today at the North Central American Choral Director's Convention at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines, Iowa. The appointment represents a badge of honor for Aune and the choir, which submitted three years' worth of recorded material for the audition and was chosen from dozens of applicants to perform at the six-state regional convention.
To fill the choir's 25-minute performance allotment, Aune has curated a challenging and meaningful repertoire designed to showcase the choir as well as the college's cultural and historical connections to Swedish and Scandinavian communities.
"Because of our roots to Sweden, I thought we should represent what we're about," Aune said.
The theme for this year's conference is "Celebrating Choral Diversity," and Aune chose two traditional folk songs — called "yoiks" — that originate with the Sami people, who are indigenous to northern Scandinavia.
Aune said the yoiks themselves — in this case, "Biegga luohte" by Jan Sandström and "Fra Norsk Landskap" by Øistein Sommerfeldt — are "often deeply personal or spiritual in nature, and typically dedicated to a human being, animal, or landscape as a personal signature. The yoik is not so much a song about a person, place, or thing, but rather a depiction of said subject through song."
In addition, Gustavus' programs consists of "The Righteous" by Johann Christoph Bach (a first cousin once removed to Johann Sebastian Bach), "Double, Double, Toil and Trouble" by contemporary Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi and "Very Soon" by Eric Whitacre, the highly acclaimed and Grammy-winning American composer and conductor.
The Whitacre piece was recently commissioned by Gustavus through a gift from Ross and Ruth Heilman, Gustavus alums and Mankato residents. As such, today's performance represents the world premier of the piece, an event that Aune suspects will be met with no small amount of interest from the professional singers, composers, conductors and educators that attend the convention.