Little did members of the Greenbrier Valley Chorale realize early last spring, as they began rehearsals for their performance of the Fauré Requiem in memory of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, that another tragedy was about to have a devastating impact on their lives.
Barbara Lutz, who has conducted the choir for more than 20 years, said that when she and the chorale’s board first conceived the idea of a concert on Sept. 11 in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, they had planned to perform the magnificent Fauré Requiem with vocal soloists and a chamber orchestra of some 16 musicians. Although the group received grant funding from both the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the Greenbrier County Commission Arts and Recreation Fund, they needed to raise even more funds to cover all expenses for the concert. They were about to start a campaign to solicit private donations when the June 23 flood changed everything.
Lutz said that the group immediately decided that it would not be appropriate to be fundraising for the concert when there were people in dire need all around them. She immediately began searching for a setting of the Requiem that could be done with fewer musicians. She was delighted when she found an edition by composer and conductor David Hill which calls for an organ and small chamber ensemble and is, in fact, better suited to the size of the choir and the intimate setting of the Lewisburg United Methodist Church (LUMC) where the concert will take place on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 3 p.m.
The history and significance of Faure’s Messe di Requiem will be explored by Dr. James Caplinger in a free lecture before the concert at 1:30 p.m. at LUMC.
“Certain myths enshroud the composition of the work upon which the bulk of Fauré’s reputation rests” Caplinger says.
He explained that because Fauré composed the majority of the work between the death of his father in July 1885 and the passing of his mother in December 1887, many biographers have made the claim that Fauré must have written the piece to honor or to mourn them. And yet, Fauré himself decried the idea of this type of expression of grief, as it was antithetical to his views on death. He worked and reworked the piece for several years before completing it in 1890.
The Requiem contains seven movements that blend aspects of the Catholic Mass for the Dead with the Order of Burial. It will be sung in Latin, with a translation of the deeply moving text provided in the program. It is a truly unique work whose composer once remarked, “… after all the years of accompanying burial services on the organ, I know it all by heart. I wanted to write something different.”
“And so he did,” says Caplinger, who will explore many of the differences that Fauré included in his masterpiece during the lecture, which will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
Lutz also made other changes in the program in response to the local tragedy. To memorialize those who lost their lives, Lutz added another, shorter piece also titled Requiem. Singer/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson wrote her Requiem as a song of grief following the Asian tsunami in December 2004, and the song found a renewed audience after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region. It has found its way to listeners as a song of prayer and comfort.
“This setting has had a huge impact on the chorale, even while we rehearse it. Its powerful emotional impact likely will affect the audience the same way,” Lutz said.
Finally, in tribute to the resilience of West Virginians, the chorale will also perform “My Home Among the Hills,” by E. W. James Jr., a hymn to the eternal beauty of the Mountain State.
The concert will last approximately one hour. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for college students, and $5 for children in grades K-12. Tickets are available online at greenbrieryvalleychorale.org or can be purchased at the door.
This program is presented with financial assistance from the WV Division of Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the WV Commission on the Arts. Support was also received from the Greenbrier County Commission Arts and Recreation Fund and individual contributors. Lewisburg United Methodist Church is ADA compliant.
On the evening of the concert, there will be a parade and candlelight vigil by first responders at dusk at the Lewisburg WalMart.