Last night, the student musicians of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra (GWO) performed in the Bascilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Miechów, Poland. This 14th century Gothic Bascilica, rebuilt in Baroque style in late 18th century after a fire, incorporates some Romanesque stone-work from the 13th century. The origins of the church date back to 1163, when some monks who had been guarding the Holy Sepulchre of Jesus in Jerusalem after the first Crusade were brought to Miechów, a town now about the size of St. Peter a short distance north of Kraków.
As it was a Sunday, there had been several Masses in the church, including one in the afternoon attended by several members of GWO, at all of which many attendees had to stand (and kneel) in the aisles and out in the entranceways because all of the pews were full. That was also the situation for our concert. The audience, ranging from elderly to young children, listened with rapt attention as the GWO performed a wide variety of music in the opulent splendor of this gold-gilded Baroque edifice. The local Priest was seen setting up extra chairs in the center aisle, and the audience included such dignitaries as a MP (Member of Parliament) with his wife, and a visiting Vatican Representative. The music they heard ranged from the biting dissonances of the Czech/American composer Vaclav Nelhybel to the rhythmic vitality of the American composer Frank Ticheli and the lush sounds of Aaron Copland. Two soloists were featured, Prof. Karrin Meffert-Nelson playing a movement of the Ticheli Clarinet Concerto and Emeritus Prof. David Fienen on the organ. Running the gamut of emotions was the longest selection on the program, the Symphonic Dances by Leonard Bernstein. We have five more audiences to share this music with before bringing it home to Bjorling Recital Hall.