Music Department celebrates centennial at Benaroya Hall

Seattle Pacific University’s music department was formed in 1923. On April 28, SPU’s Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, and SPU Orchestra performed at Benaroya Hall, Seattle’s premier concert venue, as part of the Music Department’s centennial celebration.

SPU’s singers joined the Northwest Symphony Orchestra and ChoralSounds Northwest to perform Felix Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise).

In addition, SPU Orchestra performed the world premiere of “Fantasia in D: A Hymn for the Voiceless” by composer Joshua Idio.

“We were thrilled and grateful for the invitation to perform alongside the Northwest Symphony Orchestra,” said SPU’s Director of Choral Music Ryan Ellis. “I was so excited for the singers and musicians. There is something about being on stage with an orchestra, singing praise to God… you are just part of something greater.”

Hannah Marsh, a sophomore music major, performed with SPU at Benaroya Hall last year. “I was in awe the first time I performed there. It just feels so incredible to do something you love in such an amazing space.”

Northwest Symphony Orchestra Music Director Anthony Spain wanted the concert to be a celebration. “With all we have been going through with COVID over the last few years, and with current world events, the question was: What would be an appropriate piece?” Spain said. “Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) by Mendelssohn immediately came to mind, as it has one of the most ‘emerging-out-of-darkness-and-into-light’ themes in all of music.”

Mendelssohn leaned into biblical scripture for his Hymn of Praise, which was written in 1840 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the invention of the Gutenberg Press. Through the choral and symphonic elements of his music, Mendelssohn wanted to shine a light on God’s Word that, in print, could provide hope to everyday people.

Christopher Hanson, SPU’s director of music education and orchestral activities, is thrilled to debut Joshua Idio’s Fantasia in D Minor. The Filipino American composer subtitled his piece, “A Psalm for the Voiceless,” as a reaction to his own inner turmoil.

“It’s an ode to people like [Idio] who felt trapped by the social and political unrest and needed a voice that wasn’t anger or rage. [The music communicates] a willingness to hold difficult things in tension,” Hanson said. Idio, who works as a public school educator in New Jersey, was present for the world premiere of his orchestral composition.

All the hard work is not complete without people to receive it. “The audience is a critical part of why we do what we do in the SPU music department,” Ellis said. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without the generosity of all those people who have been a part of SPU music through the years. We are truly grateful.”

Find out about other SPU concerts.

Find out more about Joshua Idio’s composition, Fantasia in D Minor (A Hymn for the Voiceless).

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