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Transylvania’s choir joins other college choirs for two performances of Brahms’ “Requiem” April 9-10

LEXINGTON, Ky.—The Transylvania University Choir joins choirs from Centre College, Berea College and Asbury University, along with a full orchestra to present two performances of Johannes Brahms’ “Ein Deutches Requiem” (“A German Requiem”) at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 9, in Haggin Auditorium at Transylvania and at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 10, in Newlin Hall in Centre’s Norton Center for the Arts. There will be an optional short lecture before each performance, at 7 p.m. The lecture on April 9 will be in the Coleman Recital Hall in the Mitchell Fine Arts Center at Transylvania. The lecture on April 10 will be in the Vahlkamp Theater in Crounse Hall at Centre. To reserve concert tickets, which are $15, call the Norton Centre Box Office at (877) 448-7469; tickets may be picked up at the door the evening of each performance.

Completed in 1868, “A German Requiem,” Brahms’ longest work for orchestra and the work that first brought him to wide recognition, is both within and outside the long tradition of requiems by composers such as Mozart, Verdi and Berlioz. Not only did he not use the standard Latin texts from the Mass for the Dead, but he also wrote a requiem for all people and especially for those who mourn a loved one’s death; in one letter he referred to it as “a human requiem.”  Though not traditionally religious, Brahms knew the Hebrew and Christian scriptures through Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible; his own Bible is preserved in Vienna and is full of personal annotations in pencil. In making his own selection of texts, he clearly shows a stronger interest in offering consolation and hope to the living than in “escorting the dead through the medieval horrors of Wrath and Judgment,” to quote the great American choral director, Robert Shaw.

Long a scholar of earlier music including that of Bach and Handel, Brahms’ work is a combination of superb craft—soaring melodic lines, vigorous rhythms and three extensive fugues—and his penetrating understanding of the human spirit.  

The performances will feature two soloists, Stephen Bolster, baritone, a professor at Berea College, and soprano Jessica French of Lexington, a recent graduate of Berea. It will be conducted by Robert Porco, formerly on the faculty at Indiana University and currently director of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and the choirs of the Cincinnati May Festival.

For more information, contact the Transylvania fine arts office at (859) 233-8141.