Choral Music Review Print



Fauré in Chapel Hill

September 11, 2002 - Chapel Hill, NC:


On the evening of September 11, memorials for those lost in our collective tragedies last year continued. Among the many ceremonies and observations was a "Solemn Requiem Eucharist" for the anniversary, presented in Chapel Hill's Chapel of the Cross. The music included John Tavener's "A Song for Athene," John Goss' setting of Ps. XXIII, the great hymn known as St. Anne, the Beatitudes, drawn from the Russian Orthodox liturgical tradition, and Fauré's Requiem, presented within the context of the communion service. Recalling the admonition of my mentor, the late Nell Hirschberg, we don't review church services, per se, but this was an exceptional occasion at the end of an exceptional day, so mention of the music and the participants is surely relevant to our collective mission. The soloists were soprano Roberta Van Ness and baritone Gerald Whittington, the other singers were the finely-balanced 37-member Senior Choir of the Chapel of the Cross (of which both soloists are members), and the orchestra consisted of sixteen distinguished area instrumentalists, who performed a chamber version of the accompaniment. Wylie S. Quinn III conducted the music, the Celebrant was the Rev. Stephen Elkins-Williams, and the Rev. Tambria Elizabeth Lee delivered the homily. The score was admirably fitted into the context of a solemn Eucharist, and the evening was exceptional in many respects, not least of which is that formal requiems and other masses are rarely heard within liturgical contexts. At the end, Quinn played Herbert Howells' psalm-prelude "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," during which a large percentage of the audience that packed the Chapel (it was literally standing-room-only) remained to reflect upon 9/11, the ultimate resolution of which remains unclear, even at this remove from the attacks themselves. There was, mercifully, no applause at the conclusion of the service.