The 2016–2017 school year has been filled with milestones for Seattle University, including the 125th anniversary of the school itself and the 20th anniversary of the Chapel of St. Ignatius. In celebration of the Chapel’s 20th birthday, Chapel Choir has decided to record an album for the first time ever.
“I think for a while there’s been some interest both from membership itself and from people who hear the choir and students or community members,” said Campus Minister for Liturgical Music Bill McNamara. “It’s funny—on Sunday evenings, when we’re rehearsing with the student choir, when there’s a particularly meaningful song that they feel like they’re doing a really good job of, everyone will pull out their phones and start recording.”
Further, McNamara said that this CD arose from a desire to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the St. Ignatius Chapel.
The CD, called “Light & Shadow,” features 17 tracks, with 16 of them sung by the Chapel Choir, and one of them sung by a smaller group of singers.
Sophomore humanities for leadership major Emi Wheeless said the name of the CD came from several different themes that are reflected in the songs.
“So we were trying to get at what makes Chapel Choir special, and a lot of that is the Chapel of St. Ignatius as a whole, and playing with seasons, or trying to capture how we were talking about different seasons in liturgical calendar,” she said. “There’s a lot of playing with light and shadow, and obviously the story of the resurrection, it’s darkness into light, so we were kind of playing with those ideas.”
Junior interdisciplinary arts major Nicky Manlove said that the choir broke down the meanings of all of the songs, and brought them into the broader context of the faith community at Seattle University.
“I think one thing that is really unique to this project and unique to this choir, is that there was a lot of time spent figuring out what the songs mean, and specifically what they mean to us,” Manlove said. “I think doing that work, as an ensemble, is really unique and took a lot of time, but I think is ultimately is definitely reflected in the product.”
Junior humanities for teaching major Brinkley Johnson said that she loves the story that the CD tells.
“The CD tells a really beautiful story that Catholics and Christians believe in, of the liturgical year,” Johnson said. “So you have Easter, you have Lent, you have Christmas; it is structured in a way that tells a story. And it’s a really beautiful testament to the strength of this faith community at this school that participates in chapel choir; both community members and students.”
Johnson said her favorite song on the album is track number three, “May You Cling to Wisdom”.
“I really like it because it was brand new for the CD, I think, I had never sang it before,” she said. “The lyrics are really beautiful. It says ‘may you cling to wisdom, for she will protect you,’ and it personifies wisdom as a trait of God that is feminized, and I just really thought that was awesome and connected with that. And also the melodies, the tone of the song, really pull on the heartstrings. It’s very intentional, and sounds so good.”
Manlove said that the process of recording the CD was an exceptional experience in itself. They said that the choir bonded over the course of the production, and shared an emotional moment at the end of recording.
“There was one moment, the last song that we recorded was ‘Take, O Take Me As I Am,’ and it’s basically eight bars of music that just kind of repeats as an ostinato,” they said. “The last recording session went two hours over what it was supposed to, so I think we got done at 11:30 or something and we had been standing there. And everyone, this happened completely organically, and everyone closed their eyes, and Bill stopped conducting, and we just sang for like 10 minutes straight, and it was really magical.”
While the CD is available right now on Spotify, it will be officially released on May 21. Community members will be able to buy it for $10 after mass, during the release celebration at 12:30 p.m. on May 21 in the Chapel or at the Campus Ministry office in the Student Center.
McNamara and the members of the choir are all excited to share the CD with the Seattle University community.
“It sounds really nice,” Johnson said, “And the music is really special to a lot of us, and we hope that it’s special to anyone who listens to it.”
“This music obviously is very packed with meaning,” Manlove said. “So there are a lot of other songs that I think are really meaningful and really powerful and really demonstrate what it means to go to a Jesuit Catholic university.”
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