Winter Choirfest and "Leonardo Dreams"

I’ve been waiting for a while to talk about this concert for a little because it was really good. Well, actually, it’s because I’m lazy, but let’s not play the blame game. Basically this is a concert where all the choirs get together and sing in the Provo Tabernacle. Some of the highlights for me were:

– Concert Choir singing “I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes,” and “The Battle of Jericho.”

– Men’s Chorus singing “El Yivneh Halgali.”

– Woman’s Chorus singing “We Are Pilgrims on a Journey” by Jared Oaks.

The were all spectacular.

BYU Singers sang three pieces: “Heartland” by Gary Fry and “Sure on this Shining Night” by Morten Lauridsen, but our masterpiece was “Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine” by Eric Whitacre. And it was breathtaking.

The idea behind this piece was to make a motion picture soundtrack to Leonardo da Vinci’s dreams about flight. Eric Whitacre uses an amazing mix of old and new as he writes in his own style and quotes from Monteverdi’s madrigals and imitative counterpoint. The poet, Charles Anthony Silvestri also takes Italian fragments from Leonardo’s own notebooks about flight and sprinkles them throughout his own text. The second half of the piece is simply called “The Flight,” where Leonardo “takes one last breath and leaps.” The choir then starts to make sounds like a Renaissance engine with noisy motors, gears, propellors and wind. The song then ends with Leonardo flying away into the distance. It’s an incredibly fun song to sing.

At first I didn’t really get into this song that much, until our director, Dr. Staheli told us that he considers this piece to be sacred music. It’s not really about Leonardo or a flying machine, it’s about all of us and our dreams, visions and aspirations. It’s about the dreams that we fear to actually live, but haunts us to the extent that we just can’t live with out it. When you take that perspective, this song is no longer a gimmick, but a truly spiritual piece with a strong message that grabs the listener and doesn’t let go. The feeling of the music and text is almost mercurial. We revel in the thoughts of flying, frightened by the fear of failure and then tortured to return again to our contemplations. We come to the point where Leonardo “steels himself” on the point of no return and jumps into the unknown, only to find that he grows wings on the way down. “The triumph of a human being ascending in the dreaming of a mortal man.”

Because of these insights, this piece has taken on a completely new role in my life. It means so much to me now. And everytime I start to fear what I can do in my life, I’m reminded that what I need to do is “take one last breath and leap.”

I’ll post a recording for you all once I get my hands on one.