Back to rehearsals on the Mozart “Requiem”

A few days ago I started rehearsals for the Annapolis Chorale’s performance of the Mozart “Requiem,” which will be given on September 11.  It was great to have the chorus back together to sing and work on this wonderful piece.

As we were rehearsing, I could not help but remember when we worked on this same piece for the first anniversary of the attacks of 9/11.  Then as now, there seemed to be a sense of purpose to our work that is more than simply preparing for a concert.  To me, the chorus seemed to be more focused on what was happening in the rehearsal.  It is almost like there is an urgency about the work we are doing and the need to do this well.  That this is our way – as musicians – of coming to terms with those tragic events and honoring those who were lost.

Several days after the attacks of 9/11 I was wrestling with the decision about whether to do our opening production for that season, “HMS Pinafore.”  Doing a silly G&S piece just didn’t seem right.  Brendan Cooke, one of our cast members from that production, and the bass soloist for this year’s upcoming performance, recalled it this way to me a few days ago:

“I remember feeling so uncomfortable getting ready to go on, wondering how folks were going to react to such nonsense…in light of the recent events.  Then, shortly after we began, I realized that this was the first time that any of those folks had smiled or laughed in days…I still remember it as one of the most important performances of my life.”

At the time, none of us knew what would happen and it was truly uncharted territory for everyone.  I was very close to canceling that production.  Then a friend of mine sent me a quote by the late Leonard Bernstein.  I read it over and over again.  I then pasted it into an email for the chorus and told them that we were going ahead with the performances as planned.  We re-sent it to the chorus a year later when we performed Mozart’s “Requiem” for the one year anniversary of 9/1.  The sentiment is overwhelming to me even today.

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
L. Bernstein

This is why we make music.  This is why we raise our voices. This must be our reply!

Recently one of my friends asked me if I was going to send it out again.  I think I will…