Spiritus Novus prepares for end-of-year concert unlike any other

Spiritus Novus is an organization of performers — “singers, nominally,” as director Will Rand ’22 puts it — that performs works composed by St. Olaf students. Spiritus gives composers on campus the opportunity to produce their work with a high-level ensemble during many rehearsals, a concert and a professional recording.

Spiritus has begun recording and putting together this concert, which will premiere online near the end of May or beginning of June. The concert seeks to represent the emotional experience of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rand described the broader themes of the upcoming concert: “It’s about ringing out the old, the things that got us here, the things that we no longer need that no longer serve us … and bringing in the new life post-pandemic,” Rand said.

The concert includes a variety of pieces which speak to different aspects of the pandemic. For example, a piece written by Sarah Shapiro ’22, entitled “Breathless,” is about the sudden, traumatizing grief of losing loved ones to COVID-19.

This year’s concert takes a slightly different form compared to those of previous years. Because it is recorded rather than live, Spiritus has been able to introduce a multimedia component to the performance. “We started from a place that was very practical and performance-oriented,” Rand said. “We realized there was a lot more we could be doing. It’s about bringing in as many different perspectives, and types of expression and ways of making art to try to capture this very broad thing. To think that we could just capture our collective souls in this one medium is a little bit short-sighted when you look at the full picture of possibility.”

One piece, written by Anna Severtson ’22, takes place on a Zoom screen. The group recorded each performer separately, and in the piece voices fade in and out, showcasing the simultaneously isolating and communal experience of pandemic music-making. The multimedia approach has been so successful that Spiritus, when able to perform live and in-person in the future, plans to consider keeping the video element as part of their concerts.

Rand seeks to continue Spiritus’ goal of bringing in as many voices and media as possible. “If someone is feeling the creative instinct for any kind of expression and they want to share it with somebody and they want to connect it to something, we would love to work together to create something beautiful,” Rand said.

Find updates at the @stolafspiritusnovus Instagram account and Facebook page.


graham10@stolaf.edu