Renowned composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi will meet with students at Monmouth College and Knox College and give two public lectures during a six-day residency, April 28 through May 3. Choral groups from the two colleges will perform a combined concert, featuring the world premiere of a new work by Mäntyjärvi commissioned by the colleges.
Free and open to the public, the concert will be presented May 2 at 7:30 p.m., at the Central Congregational Church, located on Galesburg’s Public Square.
In all, nine works by Mäntyjärvi will be performed at the concert. Choral groups performing include the Monmouth College Chorale, Monmouth College Chamber Choir and Galesburg Community Chorus, all directed by Tim Pahel, assistant professor of music and director of choral and vocal activities at Monmouth. Also performing will be the Knox College Choir, Knox College Chamber Singers and Nova Singers, all directed by Laura Lane, professor of music and director of choral activities at Knox.
“Jaakko Mäntyjärvi is an internationally recognized composer who has written works for many prestigious groups, and we are fortunate to be added to that list,” Pahel said. “We are also excited to be bringing the Knox College Choir and the Monmouth College Chorale together for this concert. Each choir is very good on its own, and we know that the sound of the two groups together, with 100 voices, will be spectacular.”
“This will be a unique and historic concert,” Lane said. “Historic, because it’s the first time that choirs from Monmouth and Knox have come together to form a unified choral ensemble, and the first time that Monmouth and Knox have jointly commissioned a choral work. And it’s unique in that each choir will sing one piece by the composer, concluding with the world premiere of the commissioned work, ‘When I Heard the Learned Astronomer.’ The composer will attend the concert and talk briefly about each piece before it’s performed.”
“The commissioned work is a setting of two texts, one in Latin by Copernicus and one in English by Walt Whitman,” said Pahel, who will conduct the premiere. “The text by Copernicus talks about the solar system revolving around the sun. The text by Whitman is a commentary on two different ways of seeing the world – the Copernican view, which is scientific and rational, and Whitman’s view, which can be interpreted as mystical and non-rational. Mäntyjärvi effectively reflects the two different world views and beautifully portrays how the narrator at the end of the Whitman poem looks up and gazes at the stars.”
Mäntyjärvi's commissioned composition is “haunting and mysterious, full of the tension between the two ideas – reason and emotion – and leads the listener to an extraordinary conclusion,” Lane said. “This is a great gift to the community that Knox and Monmouth can jointly provide. Mäntyjärvi is one of the most famous choral composers in the world today, and Tim and I are very excited about collaborating to create something unique.”
Mäntyjärvi will give two lectures about his work – on April 30 at 7 p.m. in the Barnes Electronic Classroom of Monmouth’s Hewes Library and on May 2 at 4 p.m. in Jay Hall in Knox’s Ford Center for the Fine Arts. Both are free and open to the public.
A Finnish translator and composer of more than 100 published choral works. Mäntyjärvi was composer-in-residence of the Tapiola Chamber Choir in Finland from 2000 to 2005, and he has also taught at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki.