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Concert Hall Column: The Kinnara Ensemble Returns to Drew for the 500th Anniversary of Reformation

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by Nina Campli, Assistant Student Life & Arts Editor

This past Friday, September 8, eight featured vocalists from the Kinnara Ensemble returned to Drew to perform pieces inspired the Protestant Reformation. The Kinnara Ensemble is a 32 voice chamber choir based in Princeton, NJ.  The group is led by conductor J.D. Burnett and features vocalists from all over the country. They had previously performed the program Provenance at Drew in the Spring 2017 Semester.  

The Reformation, as it is commonly called, was a split from the Catholic Church initiated by reformers such as Martin Luther, Henry VIII and John Calvin. Historians acknowledge the beginning of the Reformation as 1517 or the year in which Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. The reformation led to many changes in Northern Europe, one of which was the musical style utilized in worship.

In their performance this past Friday, titled The Reformation, the program focused on pieces written  using techniques from the Reformation by composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, Thomas Tallis and Martin Luther. While most of the songs were sung in the German language, as that is where Martin Luther was from, there were a few in English and French.  At one point Director J.D. Burnett even stepped off stage and let the ensemble conduct themselves for 2 pieces. Regardless of whether he was there or not, the performers never missed a beat. A student, Makayla Pardo (‘20) said, “The Kinnara Ensemble was truly spectacular. I enjoyed their truly magical sound and marveled at the unity between the vocalists. It seemed as though each breath was in complete unison and the sound seemed to float on air.”

While there was not a full house at the concert hall, there was a good sized audience that ranged from community members, faculty and students. For the students it was not a mere entertainment experience it was an opportunity to learn and grow in their musical ability.  Benjamin Schneider (‘19) claims, “ I definitely learned how important it is to understand what you’re singing, not just in terms of music, but in terms of historical context.”

Overall the 8 featured vocalists gave a performance to remember and we hope they return for another performance soon.

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