Choral Music Review Print



Music, Memory and Healing

September 30, 2001 - Durham, NC:


Most big concerts presented in the Triangle merit serious reviews, but there was on the evening of September 30 at Duke an event that went beyond mere music, although music was the vehicle that conveyed the message. 

The occasion was of course a large-scale memorial for the great tragedies of September 11. All the participants - the conductor, the soloists, the choristers, the orchestra and its several augmentees - and the ushers, too, donated their services. Admission was free but gifts to relief agencies were encouraged - over $25,000 was contributed on the spot, and with additional funds from the NC Symphony that under a more routine scenario would have funded the instrumentalists' work in the Chapel, the total approached $30,000. The beneficiaries were the American Red Cross, the New York Firefighters Fund and the September 11 Victim's Relief Fund.

The musical contribution came from a large and distinguished roster of exemplary artists, all of whom have over the years enriched our musical lives here and elsewhere. The event was put together by Rodney Wynkoop, who happens to have a batch of choirs at his disposal; the main body of the evening's performers consisted of the Choral Society of Durham, the Duke University Chapel Choir, and the Duke University Chorale. As it happens, Sue T. Klausmeyer is a member of the Duke Chapel staff, so she was able to involve as well the fine choir she directs in Orange County, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Community Chorus. The vocal soloists were perennial NCS soprano Jacquelyn Culpepper, who replaced at the last minute Louise Toppin, of ECU; mezzo-soprano Lucille Beer, whose credentials include appearances at the Metropolitan Opera, and who replaced on less short notice ECU's Sharon Munden; tenor John Daniecki of Lillington and the Met; and baritone William Adams, currently teaching at Elon University. The orchestra was the North Carolina Symphony, lightly augmented by such distinguished artists as violinist Hsiao-mei Ku of the Ciompi Quartet and violist Suzanne Rousso, a long-time Greensboro Symphony artist whose day job is Director of Educational Services of the NCS. The massive mobilization of forces encompassed ushers, too - they were members of UNC's Women's Glee Club and Duke's Naval ROTC unit. Samuel and John Hammond manned the Chapel's carillon. All told, it doesn't get a whole lot more ecumenical than this. Under normal circumstances, an event involving this many people would have required months of careful planning. The circumstances were, however, far from normal.

The program consisted of the National Anthem, Barber's Adagio for Strings, Mozart's Requiem, and "America the Beautiful." The music spoke for itself and for-and to-those present.

By 5:45 p.m., over an hour before the performance was scheduled to begin, there were well over a thousand people standing in the late afternoon sunlight that streamed down onto the quad in front of the Chapel. The Chapel seats a thousand people, not counting some 400 singers and 60 or so instrumentalists. Overflow filled Page Auditorium, where closed circuit television and loudspeakers carried the performance. Still more people - estimated at between 500 and a thousand - watched and listened on the quad, where a second large screen had been erected. The total - artists and audience - probably touched 3000 or so.

The losses of September 11 staggered all concerned citizens; the magnitude is hard to grasp. One way to consider it is to think that we lost in those attacks on New York and Washington and in a Pennsylvania field more than twice as many people as attended this September 30 memorial concert. Another way to help envision the magnitude of the crime is to recall that the deaths on that one day exceeded battle deaths at Pearl Harbor and on the Allied side during the D-Day invasion plus the more recent losses to domestic terrorism in Oklahoma City.

Duke President Nan Keohane provided comforting words of welcome. WTVD's Miriam Thomas delivered what served as the eulogy. At the end, Rev. William H. Willimon offered a prayer that surely summed up the feelings of all who have been touched - directly or indirectly - by the experiences we have shared. For this writer and for many, many others in attendance at Duke, the horrors of 19 days earlier and the music that served as our communion during the memorial concert were transforming events that will mark us for the rest of our lives. Wynkoop, whose many contributions to music here have been extensively documented, summed it up best of all in a short note after the September 30 event. Alluding to the issue of transformation, he wrote, "How could we not all be changed, both by September 11 and by the concert last night? Tragic as it was, it has probably made us all more fully human."