Since Lukas Hoffland joined Eau Claire’s Master Singers in 2001, he has watched the choir’s caliber grow in its sound and music quality.
With the choir’s upcoming Easter concert, Hoffland said that talent is on full display.
“Sometimes I step back and go, ‘Wow, we were able to do this?’ These are challenging songs,” Hoffland said. “It’s a bit humbling to know you are part of an ensemble bringing this level of musicianship and art to anyone around Eau Claire who wants to listen, and thankfully there are people that do.”
The Master Singers will present “Choral Images 2018: Lux Aeterna” at 2 p.m. Sunday at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 310 Broadway St.
The focal piece of this concert, “Lux Aeterna” was originally commissioned 20 years ago by composer Morten Lauridsen for the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
It is also one of Hoffland’s favorite pieces. He has been in a choir “every year of my life” since middle school and was a vocal education major at Luther College in Iowa.
He remembers hearing a Luther College choir perform “Lux Aeterna” and being mesmerized. But it wasn’t until joining the Master Singers that he was able to sing it himself.
“It is about a half-hour work that, musically and in a harmonic and instrumental sense, strikes me as being particularly sublime,” he said.
The choir has performed it several times in the past, including in 2013 for the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Choir director Gary Schwartzhoff said the group will be performing it with the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra at the concert, which adds another element to the work.
“It is a beautiful piece for a chorus and orchestra of moderate forces,” Schwartzhoff said. “Many conductors today feel this piece, even in 20 years, has earned a place in musical history as an iconic work for the 21st century.”
For Sunday’s concert, the 45 choir members plus ECCO will be joined by a nine-member honor choir made up of high school students from Eau Claire Regis, Eau Claire North, Eau Claire Memorial and Altoona high schools.
Schwartzhoff said they try to work with high school choirs as often as possible to expose students to another avenue of singing.
To close out the choir’s 25th season, the second half of the concert will include various works the group has had commissioned by composers in years past.
For the final number, “Alleluia,” Schwartzhoff said choir alumni are invited to join the group onstage. Copies of the score will be provided, but Schwartzhoff expects many will remember the piece, as it has closed out many concerts.
Looking ahead to next season, he said they have plans in place for a fall concert that will be centered around the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day and will feature patriotic music.
Before that, though, Master Singers current members and alumni are invited to join the choir on a trip to Paris this July to participate in the Paris Choral Festival, a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Liberation of France.
In addition, they have already commissioned a piece for the opening of the Pablo Center at the Confluence in the fall.
Elaine Hagenberg, next season’s composer-in-residence, is currently working on a score for that piece with a poem written by former Wisconsin Poet Laureate and UW-Eau Claire English professor emeritus Max Garland.
“That will be the centerpiece of the fall concert and, hopefully, part of the Confluence Center’s opening celebration,” Schwartzhoff said.
They have been in contact with staff at the Pablo Center at the Confluence, but nothing has been confirmed.
For choir members like Hoffland, though, it doesn’t so much matter what the group sings as long as they continue singing.
He can’t say where his professional career will take him next, but as long as he remains “in driving distance of rehearsals,” he plans to stay in the Master Singers.
“Being able to sing and to sing the songs I most love to sing and most loved to listen to (in college) has been fun getting to relive those songs,” Hoffland said. “To make that choral magic on stage with all of these other singers is marvelous.”
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