Emotions channelled in A German Requiem

BRATTLEBORO — Brahms German Requiem is close to Brattleboro Concert Choir and Orchestra director Susan Dedell's heart. She learned it young, has loved it a long time, and knows it well. She will be directing a production of "EinDeutsches Requiem" (A German Requiem) at the Latchis on Saturday, Jan. 14 and Sunday, Jan. 15. Introduced to the piece first in high school and then assisting the University of Michigan's chorus for a production with the Detroit Symphony, Dedell said, "I think it is an emotionally rich piece. It has a lot of opportunities to explore important emotions. It is physically demanding for singers and instrumentalists." But the singers and instrumentalists are pumped to be part of it.

Brahms composed A German Requiem between 1865 and 1865, often thought to be inspired by the death of his mother in February of 1865 and by the death of his best friend Robert Schumann in 1856 because the second movement includes musical material written in 1854, the year of Schumann's mental collapse and attempted suicide. It is Brahms longest composition lasting 65 to 80 minutes with work for a chorus, an orchestra, and a soprano and baritone soloist. It is a huge orchestration and Dedell plans to fill the Latchis stage with as many performers that can fit.

He assembled the libretto derived from the German Luther Bible in German rather than the traditional Roman Catholic Requiem Mass in Latin, causing controversy on religious grounds, particularly among composer Richard Wagner's followers. The Requiem Mass in the Roman Catholic liturgy begins with prayers for the dead, ("Grant them eternal rest, O Lord"), whereas A German Requiem focuses on the living, beginning with the text "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." from the Beatitudes. Even so, the first full performance in April of 1868 was a great success and established him as a renowned composer.

When he was criticized for his obvious omission of Christian theology, he tartly responded that he "wrote the work for himself" — that is, to piece together his own response to life's traumas and questions. He found consolation in nature and music, and the synthesis of nature and music in The German Requiem was meant to console those that are left behind by death, not as any declaration of a belief in life after death.Brahms was spiritual, but not religious which resonates with people today. In today's culture the non-religious aspect is a relief.

Brahms channeled a lot of his emotions into music. Dedell said, "As a pianist, I loved playing Brahms. the emotions appeal to young people. All of Brahms speaks to our emotions more than our intellect in a positive way, but this piece, more so. and Brahms writes well for all of the instruments, with lots of color"

It is one of those pieces that may be understood even if not translated, but rather bask in the feelings. Dedell also has the lights dimmed down during the performance so as not to be distracted ... to be in the moment.

Dedell said, "Brahms is seldom seen as an optimist — he was known for his reserved and sometimes prickly personality — but his choral masterwork, "EinDeutsches Requiem" (The German Requiem) shows the inner Brahms, a sensitive and visionary man who could imagine a perfected state of being in which there was no conflict, no pain — only perfected unity. It was a groundbreaking work in its day, for it dared to give voice to humankind's fundamental question in clear language: what is the ultimate meaning of our fleeting existence? "

For January's production, an orchestra of 36 professionals from across New England have been assembled to join the chorus of 95 singers.

Two accomplished soloists will join the choir, Soprano Margery McCrum and baritone Stan Norsworthy. McCrum and Dedell who first sang this work together 26 years ago are excited to do so again. Dr. McCrum acts as vocal coach to the Concert Choir, and is on the voice faculty of the Brattleboro Music Center. In addition to a degree in voice from Westminster Choir College, she is a physician who currently practices at Sojourns Community Health Clinic.

Baritone soloist Stan Norsworthy has a long and distinguished career in both opera and oratorio, having sung solo engagements with the New York Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, Staatstheater Braunschweig, Orchestra Grupo Lirico (Milan) among many others. Honors received by him include three Metropolitan Opera grants, and he has collaborated with distinguished conductors and stage directors that include Leonard Bernstein, Phillipe Entremont, and Boris Goldovsky. After many years in Europe, Mr. Norsworthy moved to Vermont where he is a committed teacher of voice to those lucky enough to work with him.

Soprano soloist Margery McCrum first sang this work 26 years ago with then-fledgling Concert Choir conductor Susan Dedell! They are both thrilled to revisit the work together. Dr. McCrum acts as vocal coach to the Concert Choir, and is on the voice faculty of the Brattleboro Music Center. In addition to a degree in voice from Westminster Choir College, she is a physician who currently practices at Sojourns Community Health Clinic.

The Brattleboro Music Center presents Dedell and the Brattleboro Concert Choir and Orchestra in two performances of "EinDeutsches Requiem" (A German Requiem) at the Latchis Theatre, 50 Main St., Brattleboro. On Saturday, Jan. 14, performance time is 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, Jan. 15, performance time is 3 p.m. #

Tickets are $15 for general seating, $10 for students, available at bmcvt.org. For more information call 802-257-4523.

Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311, ext 261


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions