Dealing with tragedy through music has been a comfort for millions through the centuries.
And again, this Sept. 11, 2011 — the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America that killed nearly 3,000 people — it is anticipated that thousands of singers, from the East Coast to Hawaii, will perform concerts of one masterwork: Mozart’s Requiem.
In the region, the Fairfield County Chorale will team with the choir of St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church to form the nucleus of a choir — along with professional soloists — to present “9 ll ll Requiem of Remembrance” at 7 p.m. at the church in downtown Fairfield.
Individual singers, as well as local church choirs and choral organizations, are invited to join in, and spectators also are encouraged to attend, says FCC Executive Director John Parkinson. An optional “brush-up” rehearsal will begin at 5:45.
Suggested admission is $11, which will include music rental and a light reception following the concert in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Parish Center.
Proceeds, Parkinson points out, will be donated to Voices of September 11, organizer of the nationwide sing-in. The New Canaan-based nonprofit group — founded in 2001 by Fairfield County residents Mary Fetchet and Beverly Eckert, who each lost loved ones in the attack — provides numerous support services and counseling to families and responders whose lives have been impacted by the terrorist attacks, during which four hijacked commercial jets crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a rural field in Pennsylvania.
Similar to the “Rolling Requiem” that occurred on the first anniversary of 9/11, the concerts will begin on the East Coast and will “roll from time zone to time zone” ending in Hawaii “in a wave of remembrance with the healing and transformative power of Mozart’s incomparable music,” Parkinson adds.
FCC President Holly Wolff says that the intent of the concert is “to celebrate our heroes and honor the fallen” and to help “continue the long process of recovery and moving forward with hope.
“Leonard Bernstein provided our inspiration when he said, `This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.’ ”
“Singers, when faced with loss, tend to do what we do: sing,” says Parkinson, who also is a bass in the chorale.
Parkinson says that the Mozart Requiem — a Mass for the dead — was chosen from the hundreds written by great composers through the ages because “it is one of the most recognizable and one of the most beautiful ever written . . . probably the requiem that most people can relate to because they’ve either sung it or heard it performed.”
And there are probably symbolic reasons as well. Parkinson points out that the piece contains the last note ever written by Mozart. When he died at age 35, Mozart was still working on the Requiem, which was apparently finished by one of his students.
“So in many ways, it represents an end and a new beginning,” he adds.
On the podium for the event will be guest conductor Christine R. Howlett, a Canadian-born soprano and conductor, who is the director of choral activities at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Howlett is one of three finalists vying for the post of full-time FCC conductor, which has been vacant following the death of longtime music director Johannes Somary in February.
Accompanying on organ will be David H. Connell, an American conductor and arranger, who received a doctorate in organ performance from Yale School of Music. Director of the Yale Glee Club from 1992-2002, Connell is artist-in-residence at Norfield Congregational Church in Weston,
Featured soloists will be:
Soprano Mary Ellen Callahan, who was described by The New York Times as “first rate” after a recent performance of “Carmina Burana” at the Metropolitan Opera house with the American Ballet Theatre; mezzo soprano Kate Maroney, who received a doctorate in 2010 from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester; tenor Mark A. Boyle, a native of Wethersfield, who is director of choral activities and assistant professor of music at Millersville University of Pennsylvania; and
bass Curtis Streetman, who has performed various roles, including the title role in Lalo’s “Le Roi d’Ys” at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall with the American Symphony Orchestra.
Jennifer Romano, the event organizer and a member of both the church and chorale, says that the sponsoring groups agreed to host this event about a year ago because they felt it would be a meaningful way to observe the anniversary.
“It’s such a worthwhile project,” she says. “So many of us in Fairfield County were directly affected by Sept. 11 — either we lost loved ones or we know of friends, or friend-of-friends, who lost someone. So it’s especially important for us to participate.”