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Singers take on Brahms’ ‘Requiem’

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Andrea Hammack

Staff Writer

Troy University’s Collegiate Singers will be premiering a new performance this Friday night of Brahms’ “Requiem.” 

Each year, the group presents repertoires, largely focusing on the genre of music known as an oratorio: unstaged musical works with a thematic element.

Gabrielle Richardson, an assistant professor of music, is featured as a soprano during the performance. 

“Brahms’ ‘Requiem’ is a staple piece of choral literature from an educational perspective; however, it’s also extremely poignant,” Richardson said.

The group consists of students with faculty as accompaniment.

The performance will feature several guest artists from across the nation. The piece is a powerfully theatrical oratorio that took Brahms well over a decade to complete.

Historically, this piece was a landmark because Brahms was the first composer to take the initiative and translate a requiem into the German language.

“Up to that point, most requiems were in Latin as they were musical extensions of the Funeral Mass,” Richardson said. “The adaptation we will present will be in English.”

Richardson also mentioned the importance of collaboration between the students and faculty.

“Collaborating with each other is an inspiring privilege,” she said. “Students bring beautiful senses of innocence, discovery and purity to a new work, and the faculty contributes the shape and subtlety to that fabric. 

“The result is intimately beautiful, especially with a piece like the ‘Requiem.’ ”

Joseph Willette, a senior music education major from Panama City, Florida, sings tenor in the group.

“I’ve been in Collegiate Singers for almost four years now, and the one thing I’ve noticed is that Dr. Brown (the director of Collegiate Singers) chooses the most emotional literature for his concerts,” Willette said. “He also never lowers the expectations of his choir, and I think it’s the single best ensemble on campus.”

“The opportunity to study Brahms’ setting and musical style is not to be taken lightly as it is a very ambitious work which challenges the interpreter physically, artistically and intellectually,” Richardson said.

She also said her favorite part of being involved with a group like this is always the sheer enjoyment of creating art with other human beings.

“Where else are you going to see 50 or more extremely different individuals — students, faculty, conductor, pianists, etc. — coming together and creating one single work of gargantuan art?” Richardson said. “You’re not. 

“That kind of challenge demands respect, and it’s an exciting and fulfilling privilege. This experience is absolutely invaluable, and the students will remember it for a long time to come.” 

Willette said he personally gets the most joy out of his emotional connection to the music and the technical preparation of it.

Richardson also said the opportunity to hear the music performed doesn’t come around very often, and to hear it performed well, even less so.

The programming of the “Requiem” denotes an impressive benchmark of growth and achievement for the students.

James E. Brown, an assistant professor of music, said he hopes the concert helps teach the Collegiate Singers that “there are no boundaries to what they can accomplish through hard work and discipline.”

“The focus and physical demands to stand and sing for this long (an hour and 40 minutes) will require them to be physically, mentally, emotionally and musically in sync,” Brown said. “My hope for the students and the audience is that they can on some level identify with our commonalities.

“We live in a despairing world that too frequently gravitates towards what makes us different, rather than celebrating our strength through community. Both audience and performer alike will have a deeper understanding of humanity and a means of working through and coping with the loss of a loved one.”

“Not every choir can undertake this work with integrity,” Richardson said. “Collegiate Singers does.”

The performance will be held this Friday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. in the John M. Long Hall Band Room. Everyone is welcome, and admission is free.