Last weekend, over 200 musicians took part in the performance of Verdi’s Requiem. Members of the Women’s World Choir, Men’s Chorus and Chamber Choir joined together with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and the Philharmonic Chorus to perform the two-hour long work. It was presented on two separate occasions; the first on Saturday, March 21 in Fort Wayne’s Embassy Theatre, and the second on Sunday, March 22 in Goshen College’s Sauder Hall.
The performances were conducted by Andrew Constantine, with Dr. Debra Brubaker and Dr. Scott Hochstetler, GC choir conductors, having done the necessary preparatory work with the choirs. Vance George, American choral conductor extraordinaire (and ‘55 Goshen College graduate) also guest conducted to help prepare the mixed student choir for the event, as did Benjamin Britten, the director of the Philharmonic Chorus.
Verdi’s Requiem is a massive work and, in the context of choral music, one of the most important religious compositions of all time. It can strike terror and the fear of death into those who listen, and it can also enlighten and uplift, bringing comfort and peace in times of tragedy. It is a testament to human ingenuity that requires almost inhuman musical precision and ability.
Students traveled to Fort Wayne on Friday afternoon, and stayed overnight with host families (members of the Philharmonic with available space volunteered for the position). There was a morning practice as well, and it was a well-prepared group that took to the stage on Saturday night at the Embassy, after crossing the street in a single-file line of men and women in tuxedos and black dresses. They were joined by soloists Jonita Lattimore, soprano, Barbara Rearick, mezzo-soprano, Noah Baetge, tenor, and Jeremy Galyon, bass. The group performed for roughly 500 people on Saturday and 300 on Sunday, and received standing ovations both of those times. A comment that made the rounds several times after the concert in Sauder was “unbelievable.”
Said Brubaker, who also led the students in singing the Doxology during supper on Saturday, “I am really glad when our students have the opportunity to collaborate with other people in a very large work that’s really an epic part of the choral repertoire.”
Brubaker also sang in the choir, and went on to say, “The experience for me was special because I got to remind myself of what it was like on the other side.”
As for the reaction of the singers, while happy to change their musical focus after spending many weeks on