“Still I Rise” – An Evening to Remember

Allissah Jerome

    Saturday, April 8th, was a night to remember! If you weren’t in the Mitchell Auditorium, you missed one of the most amazing women’s choir concerts that The College of St. Scholastica has ever held. I have been to many different choir concerts at St. Scholastica over my four year career here, and “Still I Rise” tops the cake, by far.

    The “Still I Rise: Songs of Struggle and Strength,” concert not only featured St. Scholastica’s women’s choir, but also featured the women’s choirs from St. Cloud State University, the University of Northwestern-St.Paul, the College of St. Benedict and the University of St. Thomas.

    “Still I Rise” was a collaboration of women’s choirs from different colleges, and was also in collaboration with Safe Haven in Duluth, MN. Safe Haven and Resource Center is one of the oldest battered women’s shelters in the nation. Safe Haven serves over 1,500 victims and survivors of domestic abuse annually between seven different counties in northeastern Minnesota.

    The evening opened with a welcome address from Kristi Beaver, the Safe Haven Community Education Coordinator and an unveiling of the mural. The “Still I Rise” mural was a CSS collaborative mural project with over 200 people helping bring it to life. After being unveiled to the public, the mural will find it’s final resting place at Safe Haven in Duluth, MN.

    Continuing, all five of the women’s choirs joined together on the stage to sing “Be Like the Bird” and “Spirit of Life.” As more and more singers filled the stage of the Mitchell Auditorium, I didn’t think they were going to fit, and they just barely did. When the first piece started, the Mitchell Auditorium filled up with an indescribably beautiful sound. With so many different voices coming together, the first two pieces were breathtaking.

    Four of the women’s choirs left the stage to allow the University of Northwestern-St.Paul to take the spotlight. This women’s choir performed “Überlebensgross” and “Be Thou My Vision.” “Überlebensgross” was my favorite of the two because it featured three students who played sticks of different lengths on bongo-type drums. These instruments created such unique sounds that added to the beauty of the piece.

    Following Northwestern, was the University of St. Thomas. St. Thomas performed “Gloria from Mass No. 6” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” was one of my favorite songs from the evening. This acapella song featured three St. Thomas students who had absolutely beautiful voices. This piece also fit the theme of the evening perfectly, so perfect that it gave me goosebumps.

    Our very own St. Scholastica women’s choir was up next with two pieces entitled “I Am Not Yours” and “Spes.” “Spes” was sung acapella style and had an almost island feel to it that kept the song flowing nicely.

    Following St. Scholastica’s choir, a survivor of domestic abuse talked with the audience members. Rachel Hagen. Hagen shared the heartbreaking story of her personal experience with domestic abuse, how she escaped the situation, and how Safe Haven helped her to return to her natural self after getting out of such a messy situation. Safe Haven helped Hagen with, not only the emotion aspects of her situation, but the legal aspects as well. Safe Haven made a huge difference in Hagen’s life.

    St. Cloud State University performed after Hagen’s story. They performed two pieces “By the Rivers of Babylon” and an acapella piece called “Mmamoshimane.” Each piece had a full and round tone.

     The College of St. Benedict was the last choir to perform. They performed “What I Want” and “Northern Lights.” The latter was performed in acapella and was a delight to listen to.

    After, while all of the choirs filled the stage once again, audience members got to watch a video that showed how the “Still I Rise” mural was created. It was great to see how many hands and how much hard work went into creating both murals.

    The “Still I Rise” mural will be displayed at Safe Haven while the second mural will be displayed at the Harbor City International School.

    The evening rounded out with two final pieces performed by all five of the women’s choirs. “Look! Be: Leap;” and “Still I Rise” were the final pieces. Both were absolutely beautiful, but “Still I Rise” was my favorite piece of the evening. Under the direction of CSS’s Dr. Bret Amundson, the five women’s choirs sang one of the most uplifting songs I have ever heard. It was hard to not feel the music move you as they sang. The song perfectly fit the concert, name and all. The feelings from this song were contagious and felt throughout the audience.

    Overall, the “Still I Rise” concert was a night to remember. Eleven different conductors, pianists, and teachers came together, with 226 different musicians and artists, to create this wonderful night and both of the beautiful murals.