This Saturday, Nov. 5, the Goshen College orchestra and combined choirs will be performing Larry Nickel’s “Requiem for Peace.”
The Requiem was discovered by Scott Hochstetler, assistant professor of music, and Debra Brubaker, professor of music, about seven years ago at a symposium of Mennonite musicians.
It is a work that honors the suffering civilians of this world who have been caught in the crossfire of war. In addition to the Requiem, the orchestra will perform Dvorak’s “New World Symphony.”
“We were very attracted to the subject matter because of historic peace witness at Goshen College,” said Hochstetler, “and also because we value multicultural music so much.”
To Hochstetler, the Requiem seemed to be the “perfect blend” of advocating for peace while singing in multiple languages and styles.
“I’m excited to work with so many musicians – the choral singers, the orchestra members and the guest soloists – and pull off this major expression of our faith,” said Hochstetler. “With so many movements and so many moving parts, my fear and excitement is keeping it all together.”
Brubaker noted that with large works like the Requiem, there is never enough rehearsal time. As conductors, Hochstetler and Brubaker know it is important that everything be solid as far as rhythms, pitches, diction and expression go.
“With all the responsibilities that students have, we know we are asking a lot of them, but the choir and orchestra members are smart and talented, and they will rise to the challenge,” said Brubaker.
“I’m excited about the possibilities that this work offers,” she said. “The tone colors that composer Larry Nickel has written into his music are like a kaleidoscope in their suggestions of Chinese, Japanese and Arabic music, to name a few.”
The work also features some hints of pop culture music from the 1960s onward.
“I’m perhaps most excited about the poetry that each movement of the work features,” said Brubaker.
Wilfrid Owen, a World War I poet, is featured in the Requiem.
“Some of the poems that describe individual or cultural responses to the atrocities created by war’s conflicts are also very compelling,” said Brubaker.
The conductors are looking forward to the show, and students are also excited.
“[The Requiem] is very unique, and it’s an exciting opportunity to be able to perform it,” said Jonah Yoder, a sophomore singing in the choir. “I think it’s really cool, the whole concept of it – connecting the world through music and through this one concept of peace.”
What makes this performance of the Requiem unique is that GC will be the first U.S. Mennonite college to perform the work.
“Since it’s by a Canadian Mennonite composer, that’s an exciting thing; to be able to support Larry Nickel’s work and message,” said Brubaker.
The collaboration between the orchestra and the choirs is another unique aspect to this performance.
“I really like how it allows the orchestra and the choirs to work together, because we don’t often get to do that, and that’s really neat,” said Danny Aramouni, a sophomore who plays in the orchestra. “I also like the variety of languages and musical styles in the piece as a whole, both because it talks about what peace means to lots of cultures and because it allows us to play a variety of styles musically.”
Leading up to this event, the GC community was invited to make paper cranes at different stations around campus. These cranes were then strung and hung around the music center and inside Sauder Hall.
“The peace cranes grew out of our desire as conductors and planners to ‘flesh out’ the musical aspect of the weekend’s theme of peace,” Brubaker said.
The idea came from the story of a young Japanese girl, Sadako, who contracted radiation sickness from the atomic bomb that was dropped in Hiroshima. She had heard a story that if 1,000 paper cranes were folded, the folder would get their wish. While Sadako’s wish of healing was not granted, people still fold cranes today as a sign of hope and unity.
“Hanging the cranes in the lobby and performance hall of the Music Center is a small way that we can show our desire for peace,” Brubaker said.
Before the concert in the evening, the GC community is invited to attend a symposium at 1:00 p.m. in the Music Center. The symposium will be about music, storytelling and peacemaking and will feature discussions with local immigration lawyer Lisa Koop and Latino voices from the local community among other things. This conference is free and open to the public.
More information regarding the symposium and concert can be found on Facebook on the event pages or on the GC website. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. and is free to students.