The MSUM men’s choir, Draco Voces, has been vigorously rehearsing a unique piece that is entirely their own in preparation for the all-choirs fall concert on Thursday. Director Daniel Mahraun commissioned a piece specifically for the choir titled “The Dragon and the Undying.”
“It’s really important to me for each of the choirs to have its own unique identity,” Mahraun said. “Commissioning this piece was one way to bring that to the men’s choir, in addition to a new name.”
The men’s choir recently renamed themselves Draco Voces, which means “dragon voices” in Latin.
“The Dragon and the Undying” features the text of a early 20th-century poem with the same name by Siegfried Sassoon and was composed by Linda Kachelmeier of St. Paul. Sassoon (1886-1967), an English poet, writer and soldier is known as one of the leading poets of World War I for his detailed scenes of the horrors of war.
Mahraun said he chose Sassoon’s poem because it was one of the only poems that had dragons featured in a positive light. It was hard to find text about dragons where the dragon wasn’t the bad guy or getting slain.
“I’m thrilled to have worked with Linda Kachelmeier on this piece,” Mahraun said. “She’s so gifted in her ability to capture the best about the ensemble for which she’s writing. Plus, she’s a friend. She’s a founding member of The Rose Ensemble, with whom I sang for two seasons before coming to MSUM last year.”
The poem was written in 1917 at the tail end of World War I and contains rich text portraying graphic images like “… and beats upon the dark with furious wings” and “… tenderly stooping earthward from their height.” Kachelmeier composed the song with chromatic tones and a robust feel to better suit the male singers.
“The rich language provided the basis for the heroic tonality and strength from the male voices,” Kachelmeier said.
To match the era of the text, suspended cymbals and bass drum accompany the singers and imitate battlefield noises. A quote from the 1918 war remembrance hymn “O Valiant Hearts” was also added to the piece.
The men’s choir will debut “The Dragon and the Undying” at the all-choirs fall concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepard in Moorhead and will feature the men’s choir, women’s choir and concert choir.
Although the four-part number proved slightly difficult when rehearsals started, Mahraun said the men picked it up well and are excited for everyone to hear it on Thursday.
BY MEREDITH WATHNE