On April 6, eager listeners gradually filled the Auerbach Auditorium in St. Mary’s Hall to hear the St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) Chamber Singers and the St. Francis Choir perform John Rutter’s requiem. Rutter is an English composer, whose works are mainly choral, and include Christmas carols, anthems and more extended works such as the requiem. The requiem was completed in 1985 and is based off of the traditional Roman Catholic Latin Mass for the dead, with additions from the Book of Common Prayer. The words speak of granting rest for the dead, praising the Lord and asking him for mercy and allowing light to shine on the dead. It is a very popular recent composition, and is still performed regularly across the world.
The program began with PING, St. Mary’s small audition-only vocal ensemble, singing Johannes Brahms’ 1871 Schicksalslied, Op. 54, or Song of Destiny in English. The piece is one of Brahms’ shorter, but more famous choral works. The ensemble filed out from behind the stage, followed by Larry Vote, SMCM professor of music and director of the performance, and Rie Moore, pianist. The piece started out in an almost earnest manner, suddenly switching to anger, and shifting back and forth between the two. An audience member described the performance as having “dynamic language, but quite rhythmic.” From there, the program went into the seven movement requiem.
The stage filled further as the SMCM Chamber Choir and St. Francis Choir lined the stands and an instrumental ensemble, including Beverly Babcock, SMCM instructor of music, Glenn Paulson, SMCM instructor of percussion, and Rebecca Smith, SMCM instructor of music, took their places. The seven movements of the requiem ranged from subdued to more positive, beginning with the dark and solemn Requiem aeternam (rest eternal) and ending on the peaceful Lux aeternam (light eternal), which follows a similar structure, but with a more pleasant tone. There are darker moments throughout the piece, but the overarching theme is reassurance, and provides a message of hope and comfort. The requiem featured solos by Terrayne Carter, Soprano, and Rachael Meador, Soprano, as well as solos for cello and oboe players. The music was powerful and filled the compact hall as the audience moved with the performers through the requiem.
Although the majority of the requiem was in Latin, it was easy to be drawn in and understand the feeling behind the music. The two choirs working together had a great positive effect on the delivery of the piece. Molly Sachs, member of the SMCM Chamber Singers reflected on the performance, “It is a beautiful piece of music and it was a great experience being able to sing with people from another choir. The instruments added a lot, it was a great feeling and I think it sounded good in the hall.” The choirs were expressive in their tone, and conveyed the meaning of the unfamiliar words well. The audience was held in rapt, reverent silence, holding for applause until exploding into a standing ovation following the seventh movement.