`Requiem' offers solace around world

Groups large and small keep Mozart work rolling along

September 12, 2002|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Requiem aeternum dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis - "Grant unto them eternal rest, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them."

From Annapolis and Indianapolis to Sacramento and Honolulu, those words were sung - to the eloquent music of Mozart - at 8:46 a.m. yesterday, as the one-year anniversary of 9/11 arrived in each time zone.

These synchronized performances of the Requiem could be found throughout the world, starting at the International Date Line, as professional and amateur choirs and orchestras gathered to mark the commemoration through an extraordinary kind of solidarity.

Whether in Sydney or Bangkok, Moscow or Belgrade, people could find a local contribution to this "Rolling Requiem," an idea that originated with the Seattle Symphony Chorale.

In Berkeley, Calif., the audience was invited to bring scores and sing along with community and university alumni choruses. At a school in Ohio that did not have a chorale, four faculty members planned to perform the Requiem with piano accompaniment. In Tucson, representatives from 50 different groups came together to form a 350-voice ensemble. A church in North Carolina participated by playing a recording of the Mozart work in the sanctuary.

The global venture resoundingly underlined a statement made by conductor Leonard Bernstein following the assassination of President Kennedy, a statement that has been widely re-circulated since 9/11 - "This is our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

That quote was reprinted in the program for yesterday morning's presentation of Mozart's Requiem at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, featuring the Annapolis Chorale and Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, led by J. Ernest Green. About 1,000 people turned out, packing the 850-seat theater and spilling over into a gymnasium to watch and listen via simulcast.

Green chose tempos that struck an effective balance between solemnity and momentum, giving the performance a unifying tautness. Here and there, details of phrasing and dynamics could have been more refined, but this was a thoughtfully considered interpretation.

Choristers articulated with clarity and discipline. On sustained high notes, sopranos and tenors may have found their intonation waning, but not their expressive intent. Contrapuntal passages, notably Quam olim Abrahae, were vibrantly realized.

Among the soloists, Amy Cofield's silvery soprano proved particularly impressive. Bass Ryan de Ryke caught much of the Tuba mirum section's drama. Mezzo Catrin Davies and tenor Jeremy Blossey completed the quartet ably.

There was mostly tight playing from the orchestra; the trombone soloist made a vivid contribution.

The performance, which ended eight minutes before those in the Central Time Zone commenced, was followed by a long moment of silence and what then seemed an unusually cathartic release of applause.

Mozart's Requiem, like those of Berlioz, Verdi and other greats, belongs to no denomination exclusively. Its message could hardly have been more universal on this occasion, summed up by the opening of the Hostias - "We offer unto Thee this sacrifice of prayer and praise; receive it for those souls whom we commemorate today."

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