Something New Under the Sun

Feel the music: Henry Dehlinger ’88 is premiering musical magic at SCU.

Fate. Destiny. The meaning of life. A good song gets you hung up on these things, imprisoning you to its melodies. Henry Dehlinger ’88 played the parts of warden and prisoner, weaving these elusive themes throughout his music.

He’s now returning to SCU to debut Kohelet: A Cantata in Five Movements with the Santa Clara University Concert Choir and the Santa Clara Chorale.

“I really believe it was fate,” Dehlinger says. Former director of SCU’s Concert Choir Tom Colohan happened to be at a house concert at which Dehlinger debuted part of Kohelet. It was love at first note. When Colohan expressed his desire to commission Dehlinger to finish the piece, the duo shared their common connection to SCU. The puzzle pieces clicked together, and they decided that Mission Santa Clara was where they’d bring Kohelet to the public. “That’s where all of that started—from that one conversation at a house concert in 2018.”

Here Comes the Sun

And from that one conversation ultimately stems many more. Written with text from Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs of the Bible, Kohelet is an examination of the age-old mystery of the meaning of life. “Some say it’s hard to tell if the book is life-affirming or pessimistic,” Dehlinger says. “There’s nothing new under the sun,” “vanity of vanities; all is vanity,” and “the race is not to the swift,” phrases that make us face our own humanity, all come from Ecclesiastes.

Dehlinger wants to help us make sense of it all in his composing. Among the cognitive dissonance, he notes: “One thing’s for sure: the Kohelet, the teacher who is narrating the work, concludes that it is more important to live wisely and enjoy the simple pleasures of life” than to pursue wealth, fame, or power. Joy is an inner state of being. And that, Dehlinger thinks, is sage advice for our time.

There’s no better way to hear that advice than through a collection of beautiful voices. Under the baton of Colohan, SCU’s concert choir is partnering with the Santa Clara Chorale to debut this piece together. It’s the perfect medium to spread the message of Kohelet, Dehlinger thinks: “Choral music is really a metaphor for what we should all be doing as human beings: coming together for a common purpose. Nothing illustrates that better than a chorus that brings beauty into the world.”

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