16 September 2011

Commemorating 9/11 Pt.1

It was fortuitous, not planned, that we were in NYC for the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and it was an interesting place to be. The day itself was sunny, touristy near the site, and not particularly sombre. There were cops everywhere following a vague report of possible terrorism which didn’t come to be, but it was a truly impressive presence. And there were a series of events over the week before 9/11 that seemed the heartfelt memorials.

We attended a superb choral concert at the church of St John the Apostle on the day before 9/11. The church itself was not pretty for me, at least after visiting so many mediaeval European churches, but the sound was cathedral-like and the performers were most impressive. The combined choirs started with Song for Athene by John Tavener. This was a single drone organ note with text from Shakespeare and used in the Orthodox funeral service. It started as male chant, rose to a mixed choir with volume and power, then finished with the chant again. Very powerful, and later repeated as an encore. Then six songs by the Empire City Men’s Chorus, varying in style from traditional blues through a composed version of a letter home by a now dead US soldier from Iraq (touching to read but the text didn’t lend itself to music as did Shakespeare or Tennyson) to standard poetry put to classical song. The major work of the concert was Paul Leavitt’s Requiem performed by the NYC Master Chorale with five solo voices. PL wrote the piece in 2009 after the death of his own partner. Read more about it at the link below.

We lucked out on the afternoon of Sunday 9/11 when we passed Grace Church, an old Epicopalian (essentially Anglican high church for post-revolution Americans) church in Greenwich Village with a renowned history. They were performing Faure’s requiem. We only caught part and it was not performed with the expertise of the NYC Master chorale, but it was beautiful with many high children’s voices in a sympathetic space.

  • Program notes for the Paul Leavitt Requiem
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