Old Testament prophet comes to Shryock

By Gus Bode

A birthday celebration will be held at Shryock Auditorium tonight, attended by an Old Testament prophet, a group of angels and a number of Israelites.

The celebration will be a performance called ‘Elijah,’ written by composer Felix Mendelssohn in 1846. It begins in Shryock at 7:30 p.m., with tickets at $5 for students and $10 for general admission available at the door beginning at 6:30 p.m.

If Mendelssohn were still alive, this year would mark his 200th birthday. In honor of the German composer, Dr. Susan Davenport chose ‘Elijah’ as the spring production for the Choral Union, Concert Choir and Southern Illinois Orchestra.


Davenport, who will be conducting the performance, said Mendelssohn was commissioned by the English to write the oratorio, which is similar to an opera but without costumes or sets.

‘This is considered the crowning achievement of his life as a composer,’ she said.

She said the piece involves almost 130 singers, as well as the orchestra members. The Choral Union includes SIUC students as well as members of the community, she said. Faculty members will also be involved in the performance.

One of the roles played by an SIUC staff member is Elijah himself.

David Dillard, an assistant professor teaching voice at the School of Music, said he agreed to play the prophet when Davenport asked him if he would.

Dillard said the style of music heard in the work would be more common in larger cities but does not come often to Carbondale. He said he felt privileged to be able to participate in this style of music with such a large group of people.

‘I think with the enormous choir and the orchestra and having it in Shryock, it will be a very special experience for the performers as well as the audience,’ he said.


Lydia Dunmyer, a sophomore from Du Quoin studying vocal performance, said she thinks the performance is going to be great.

The fact that the performance style is an oratorio, she said, adds an element of interpretation and imagination to ‘Elijah’.’ With no costumes or set, the audience must concentrate on the music and the text of the pieces. This means the singers have to be better interpreters, she said.

Davenport said the style provides an opportunity for college students to stretch their imaginations in a way to which they might not be accustomed. At the same time, she said, the music and story is still easy to follow.

‘You can take this dramatic music and let your imagination fill in the gaps of what the action would look like,’ she said.

Another aspect of the performance that sets it aside from others is the involvement of community members.

Dunmyer said she enjoyed working with people from outside SIUC, as well as faculty and other students. She said it is neat to be able to work with people outside the school of music who still have such an appreciation for it.

She said people do not have to be familiar with opera or oratorio to enjoy the performance.

‘You don’t have to be a huge fan of classical music,’ she said. ‘It’s just a great story.’

Genna Ord can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 275