Chorus to sing Rutter's Requiem

Music: John Rutter's easy-on-the-ear Anglican lyricism has made him among the most popular choral composers today.

Howard Live

March 27, 2003|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Requiem, Roman Catholicism's liturgy for the dead, has been a source of inspiration for many of music's greatest masters.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giuseppe Verdi, Hector Berlioz, Gabriel Faure and Maurice Durufle are just a few of the composers who have enriched the choral repertoire with their settings of the Mass for the Dead.

The Requiem has remained irresistible to composers of our day, including John Rutter, whose easy-on-the-ear Anglican lyricism has made him, perhaps, the most popular choral composer of the current day.

"The Rutter Requiem is one of those sacred works that moves toward the light and not the darkness," says Frances Motyca Dawson, whose Columbia Pro Cantare Chorus will be singing the piece Sunday afternoon at Baltimore's Second Presbyterian Church. "This is one of those healing, consoling works that leaves the listener feeling uplifted after hearing it."

Completed in 1985 in memory of the composer's father, Rutter's Requiem, like the German Requiem of Johannes Brahms, departs from the Roman liturgy to include other sources of spiritual introspection, including the Psalms and the Book of Common Prayer.

"Considering the difficulties we're experiencing in the world right now, the piece takes on added significance," says Motyca Dawson, contemplating the seven-movement work that incorporates Gregorian chant lines, the 23rd Psalm and the "De Profundis" ("Out of the Depths" from Psalm 130) into what the composer calls a "meditation on themes of light and death."

"This is one of those pieces that people want to hear," Motyca Dawson says, "and at a time like this, maybe it's one they need to hear."

Sunday's concert, which will sung by both Pro Cantare and the Second Presbyterian Choir and accompanied by a full orchestra, also will commemorate several musical milestones.

The orchestra will play Johann Pachelbel's ubiquitous "Canon in D" as well as the "Gigue" composed to accompany it (but usually ignored) in honor of the German composer's 350th birthday.

Second Presbyterian's distinguished organist, Margaret Budd, will play Pachelbel's Ciaconna in homage to the author of the baroque era's greatest hit.

In addition, Pro Cantare will perform a pair of songs by Hector Berlioz in honor of the arch-Romantic Frenchman's 200th birthday, as well as three sacred songs by the extraordinary German post-Romantic, Hugo Wolf, who died a century ago in 1903.

Rounding out the program will be Marcel Tournier's "Berceuse Russe for Harp," to be played by harpist Eric Sabatino.

Pro Cantare's annual appearances in Baltimore have become as popular with members of the ensemble as they have for the public. "The church is a nice alternate place for us to perform," says alto Laura Lee Fischer, who serves as the ensemble's assistant conductor. "We've gotten to know members of the other choir, the acoustics are very good, and we love to hear Margaret Budd play that organ. It's always a nice concert."

Columbia Pro Cantare and the choir of Second Presbyterian Church of Baltimore will perform at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Second Presbyterian Church, 4200 St. Paul St., Baltimore. The concert is free and open to the public with no tickets necessary. A free-will offering will be taken. Information from Columbia Pro Cantare:, 410-465-5744 or 410-799-9321. Information about the "Community Concerts at Second" series on which Pro Cantare is appearing: the church, 410-889-6819.

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