Dr. Chris Hansen is headed to the Big Apple—and he’s bringing AU’s best voices with him
This summer, Dr. Christopher Hansen of The South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University will step onto
a stage where for nearly 130 years many of the world’s greatest musicians have stood, beginning with Pyotr Tchaikovsky on opening night May 5, 1891.
Dr. Hansen will conduct the New England Symphonic Ensemble, world-class soloists and an invitational choir composed of singers from across the nation–many of which are Anderson University musicians. They will perform Ola Gjeilo’s “Dark Night of the Soul” and “Luminous Night of the Soul” at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on June 25.
Receiving an invitation to conduct performers at Carnegie Hall goes beyond Dr. Hansen’s wildest expectations.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who have done this in the past. You kind of become part of a small group of people who have done it. They’ve all shared with me similar stories about their feelings of anticipation, anxiety, and then the realization of how wonderful it is when they walk out on that stage,” he said.
Dr. Hansen received a call from prominent choral director Dr. Sonja Sepulveda, followed by an official invitation from Peter Tiboris, founder and general director of MidAmerica Productions. Sepulveda has followed Dr. Hansen’s conducting career and his social media feeds for years. She told Hansen that she admired his energy and enthusiasm, and felt he was a good choice to be a guest conductor for MidAmerica Productions’ 39th Carnegie Hall season.
“I never believed this was one of those aspirations that could actually happen,” Dr. Hansen said.
By the audition deadline last October, 80 singers from across the nation had registered to perform. About half of the group will be familiar faces from the Anderson, South Carolina area. The group includes AU students, singers from area high schools, church choirs and the Anderson community. The group also includes alumni from his time teaching chorus at Cedar Ridge High School in North Carolina and singers from various high school honor choirs he led.
“I did the same music when I taught high school, so all of those former students already know it or knew it a long time ago. I know they have the chops to do it and I’m thrilled to see their names on my list,” he said.
Carnegie Hall has very high standards, so Dr. Hansen will essentially be conducting the best of the best. The work is vetted by MidAmerica Productions. “The good news is there’s a solid nucleus of singers traveling with me to New York City who I know and who have learned the music already,” he said. “So whoever is there that I don’t know will get three very extended rehearsals with me with a core group of singers. By contract, when they sign up to come, they’re supposed to come with the music learned,” he said.
"The text, coming from St. John of the Cross, speaks heavily about our desire to be loved by God. It’s not just our desire to be loved by God, but the next level—our desire to be affirmed that God loves us."
— Dr. Chris Hansen
AU Assistant Professor of Music
The musical composition “Dark Night of the Soul” incorporates stanzas from the poem of the same name, written by 16th- century Spanish mystic and poet St. John of the Cross.
“When I was initially talking to Carnegie Hall about the concert, they said, ‘Chris, this will be our first concert series coming out of the pandemic and your concert is the last concert of the series; it’s the closer.’ I immediately knew we needed to perform ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ because we’re all dealing with aimlessness and isolation,” he said. “It’s such an incredible piece of music.”
Highly regarded in the orchestra and choral world, Gjeilo is a graduate of The Juilliard School, and is renowned for his prolific and widely performed work. Dr. Hansen says that Gjeilo provides the “full landscape of what I call the emotive experience: different textures working with each other— conflict, dissonance, tension and release.”
“It’s very epic,” he said. “It takes you through these emotive qualities. The ‘dark night of the soul’ is something we all experience in our lifetime. The text, coming from St. John of the Cross, speaks heavily about our desire to be loved by God. It’s not just our desire to be loved by God, but the next level— our desire to be affirmed that God loves us... Many of us, though we are told that God loves us, may not sense affirmation of that love, and that’s our ‘dark night of the soul.’ I might be connected to other people in the room. I might be contributing to the world in a way most people see as valuable and purposeful, but I feel alone and am isolated. This can lead to stress, sickness and depression. All of that is really rooted in our desire to be affirmed in our love of Christ and to know God loves us. That’s the ‘dark night of the soul.’”
The second Gjeilo composition, “Luminous Night of the Soul,” was written to contrast his earlier composition, with a brighter, lighter feel. Gjeilo felt “Dark Night” needed a companion to close the loop; whenever performed, usually it is followed by “Luminous Night of the Soul.”
Prior to the June performance in New York, all three of Anderson University’s choirs will combine into a larger ensemble and perform “Dark Night of the Soul” and “LuminousNight of the Soul,” accompanied by a small orchestra and piano, in Henderson Auditorium of the Rainey Fine Arts Center March 25, 2022.
Dr. Hansen hopes many from the Upstate will come and enjoy the local concert–then take the next step and travel to New York in June.
Dr. Hansen's performance at Carnegie Hall is
Saturday, June 25, 2022, at 7 p.m. For more information, visit midamerica-music.com/concerts-in-2022.