Visiting composer brings classical music to life

Photo courtesy of Jake Runestad.

Photo courtesy of Jake Runestad.

Lucy Welles

Last Wednesday evening in the Alma McDonough Auditorium, the Marietta College Concert Choir gave new life to a work entitled “Goodnight, My Love,” which was commissioned just months ago by visiting composer Jake Runestad.

Runestad, 28, was present at the performance, which featured a variety of his works and gave attendees a glimpse into his mind as part of the Esbenshade Series. He spoke to the students, faculty, and community members in attendance about what it means to be a composer in this day and age.

“When most people think of a composer, they think of old, dead guys,” he said amid laughs from the audience.

Runestad’s music is anything but dead. Junior English major Erin McNulty, who is an alto member of the Concert Choir, felt a personal connection with the text of the commissioned piece, which is a dark, emotional lullaby based on the writings of Ohio poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

“Singing is a chance to bring a literary work to life,” she said. “Jake’s piece brought together my two worlds.”

The act of composing is thrilling for Runestad.

“The crazy thing about being a composer is the music doesn’t exist before I write it,” he said. “It’s just ink on paper until it’s interpreted, and then it becomes this living, breathing expression of the human experience. It’s so exciting to hear a piece for the first time.”

As a professional composer, Runestad spends his time writing and traveling, commissioning pieces for choral groups around the country.

“I love creating a vehicle for people to come together to bring beauty into the world, because there aren’t many jobs that allow you to do that,” he said. “I also really love traveling, and meeting people, and helping them to bring as much as they can into the music.”

He believes that each individual performer has the capability to relate to a piece of music in a different way, and that emotional power behind a song truly makes a difference in how it is perceived by an audience.

“This idea really got to the Concert Choir,” McNulty said. “We want people to feel something that’s going to make people happy when they leave; just to let them know that they can find serenity in times of hardship, through song.”

The director of the Concert Choir, Dr. Dan Monek, hopes attendees come to realize that the classical genre of music is still flourishing and full of excitement.

“There are still people out there like Jake who are creating new art, and making a living. Not all composers are decomposing. That’s what’s exciting about it.”

As the choir’s vibrant chords and lively notes bounced off the walls of the auditorium, emotions ran high. After the performance, there was surely no doubt in the minds of the audience members that classical music is alive and well.

Visit to hear recordings of Runestad’s pieces and learn more about his work.

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