Back to rehearsals on the Mozart “Requiem”

July 28th, 2011

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…

8 Responses to “Back to rehearsals on the Mozart “Requiem””

  1. Absolutely beautifully written! I look forward to the concert.

    Comment by Jennifer Fletcher — July 28, 2011 @ 3:33 PM

  2. Right on! I’d forgotten the Bernstein quote and how much it meant to me ten years ago. I feel it more powerfully now, if possible.

    Comment by Corby Zeren — July 28, 2011 @ 5:03 PM

  3. I had not heard that quote before.
    Being new to the Chorale I look forward to raising my voice along with the beautiful voices that surround me in both praise and sometimes sorrow. Thank you.

    Comment by Barbara Marino — July 29, 2011 @ 6:28 AM

  4. All of us (who are old enough) remember exactly what we were doing when the horrible attacks took place on 9/11/01. The birth of a beautiful new granddaughter and the singing of HMS Pinafore helped me to move on in life. We are never far from either tragedy or happiness. I will always remember the “rolling requiem” on 9/11/02, Ernie’s downbeat on the exact one-year anniversary of the moment the first plane hit and look forward to another chance to perform Mozart’s wonderful Requiem!
    Ann Hewitt

    Comment by Ann Hewitt — July 29, 2011 @ 8:57 AM

  5. The Bernstein quote is even more appropiate in our world today. I have a wall hanging that I feel also sums up the power of music.
    Bach gave us God’s word
    Mozart gave us God’s laughter
    Beethoven gave us God’s fire
    God gave us Music that we might pray without words.

    Comment by Priscilla Schneider — July 29, 2011 @ 12:02 PM

  6. thank you

    Comment by Clementine Graffam — August 3, 2011 @ 10:25 AM

  7. Amen!

    Comment by Ned Criscimagnaa — August 5, 2011 @ 7:42 AM

  8. Once again, I am honored to be able to sing this Mozart piece in remebrance of 9-11. Likely there will again be tears and then…joy as we sing together. This Requiem and cause will forever be linked in my heart and others in the Chorale.
    Thanks Ernie and Bernstein!

    Comment by Faith Howarth — August 10, 2011 @ 9:24 AM