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UCSB Singers Make with ‘The Gaudie’

Concert choice a fitting end to fall quarter.

Monday's University Singers concert will headline a moving testament of faith by François Poulenc.
Monday’s University Singers concert will headline a moving testament of faith by François Poulenc.

Few concerts signal the close of the current quarter more definitively than that by the University Singers. When you learn that this quarter’s concert — called “Gaudeamus Igitur” (Let us rejoice, therefore) — is upon us at 8 p.m. Monday at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State St., you can bet that every student not at rehearsal is studying for finals and putting the finishing touches on one or more term papers.

“Gaudeamus Igitur” could actually serve quite handily as the title of any concert by university students, anywhere, and especially at the end of term. It is the first line of a Latin song that has long been a favorite — for rejoicing and/or drinking — of students celebrating the close of their academic experience. The original poem was called “De Brevitate Vitae (on the Shortness of Life)” and was written by the grim Stoic philosopher Seneca (4 B.C.-A.D. 65). To keep in a happy mood while you’re listening to it, it helps to not understand Latin. Here is a translation of the first stanza:

Let us rejoice therefore
While we are young.
After a pleasant youth
After the troubles of old age
The earth will have us.

See what I mean? Basically, it’s “Eat, Drink, and be Merry, for Tomorrow, We Die.” Only a university student would find this a sentiment worth celebrating.

Longtemps, the University Singers was a women’s ensemble, a group of majors and nonmajors. Now, just recently, they have added a men’s ensemble to the mix, and both ensembles will participate in Monday’s concert. If the song, “Gaudeamus Igitur” is on the program, it is doubtless the men who will sing it. The women’s ensemble, under the leadership of Michel Marc Gervais protegees Helena von Rueden and Adam Kurihara will sing François Poulenc’s Litanies à la Vierge Noire (Hymns to the Black Virgin) and Benjamin Britten’s Missa Brevis for female voices and organ. The Men’s Chorus will sing a program of sacred and secular 20th century music for male voices, handbells, oboe and piano.

Poulenc wrote the Litanies in 1936, shortly after he made a pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Rocamadour. The death earlier in the year of his longtime companion, the composer Pierre-Octave Ferroud, had the effect of reviving his Catholic faith. The Litanies is the first in a distinguished series of religious choral works, including the celebrated Gloria, which place him — almost by default — in the front ranks of 20th century religious composers. It is a very personal work, a series of prayers to Mary, and a deeply moving one.

There will be a donation collected at the door of $15 (general) or $7 (students). Click here for more information or call the UCSB Music Concert line at 805.893.7001.

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