A Tale of Two Requiems

Last night I had my first rehearsal with the Northwest Choral Society of 2013. We are currently working on two Requiems -- one, Requiem for the World's Unwanted Children, is by Chicago composer and educator, Daniel Salotti. The other is Johannes Brahms' A German Requiem.

Dan Salotti's Requiem uses texts from the Liber Usualis (the former book of liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church) and uses some lush chords and orchestrations for the voices. The piece will be sung in Latin. Salotti also embraces many attributes of Gregorian chant and uses the male voices as a Schola. After the read-through one singer commented to me she was so touched by this, "living Requiem" because her work, as a music therapist, is often affected as she sings children into their eternal rest.

Johannes Brahms started to write his Requiem in 1865. Two events predicated the development of the work--the death of his good friend, Robert Schumann, and the death of his mother. Brahms grew up in a Lutheran household and knew Bible verses from memory. As the Requiem liturgy of Roman Catholics is not used in a Lutheran tradition, Brahms chose texts from the Bible to compliment his music. The traditional Latin Requiem is an offering of the living survivors to ask God's blessing and grace on the souls of the departed. Brahms chose texts that would support and comfort the lives of the surviving mourners. The lush harmonies, unforgetable melodies, and overarching theme of comfort have elevated this work to being one of the "big ten" pieces of choral music -- along with Messiah, Bach B-minor mass, and Orff's Carmina Burana.

First rehearsals are always a curiousity. The choir is introduced to music for the first time. They are beginning to hear the notes, harmonies, rhythm and text with limited, if any, context. Consequently, the chorus struggles and pushes through the music. As director of the group, I realize how first rehearsals run. One singer commented that she doesn't know how this piece will pan out. I tried to comfort the singer saying that this was only the first rehearsal and we were not really practicing...just running through the music. Over the next 3 months I am confident the singers will love each note and embrace the beauty of the work.

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