By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
Two of the most popular choral works of the past quarter-century are Morten Lauridsen’s transcendant Lux Aeterna and John Rutter’s elegant Requiem. Each deals profoundly with the subjects of death and eternal life.
Although neither is easy to sing, both were written so choral groups with a wide range of skill levels (and budgets) could perform them. Both were designed to be sung in concert but they can also be adapted to worship service formats (indeed, when Pasadena Presbyterian’s Kirk Choir sang the West Coast premiere of the complete Rutter Requiem in 1986, it did so within the context of Sunday worship).
I’ll have a lot more to say about Morten Lauridsen next week but the Requiem by John Rutter (pictured right) is very much on the calendars this season with at least three churches presenting the work within the next few weeks.
Rutter’s Requiem will be the centerpiece of Pasadena Presbyterian Church’s 15th annual Good Friday concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Timothy Howard will lead his 50-voice choir, about two dozen community singers who have rehearsed specifically for this concert, soloists and orchestra. The free-admission program also includes O Vos Omnes by Pablo Casals, Bob Chicott’s God So Loved the World and John Tavener’s Song of Athene.
Since I’ll be singing in the choir and giving a preconcert lecture at 7 p.m., you can view this post with whatever level of skepticism you care to muster. Assuming the technology gods work adequately, my lecture will include video clips of Rutter discussing why he wrote the piece, its liturgical context and form.
The concert and the lecture are free; free parking is available and the church sanctuary is handicap accessible. Information: www.ppc.net
On the same day and hour, First Presbyterian Church Monrovia will sing the Rutter Requiem as part of what the church’s Web site describes as a “Good Friday Service.” Information: www.fpcmonrovia.org
Finally, on May 6 Calvary Presbyterian Church in South Pasadena will perform the Rutter Requiem in a 4 p.m. concert. Michael Wilson will lead his Chancel Choir and community singers (rehearsals are on Saturday mornings from 9-11 a.m. for those interested in singing). “This is an expansion of our “Messiah Sing-a-long,” says Wilson. “We call it Calvary’s ‘gift to the community.’ Last spring’s work was Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem. Information: www.calvarypressopas.net
Virtually every choir member knows the name John Rutter; in addition to writing hundreds of works, he has co-edited four volumes of the Oxford “Carols for Choirs” series, which are staples in most choir libraries.
What makes the Rutter Requiem so popular? At least one reason stems from the 66-year-old English composer’s inspiration: his father had died in 1983. “My father loved music,” explains Rutter. “He had a good ear but he never had any musical training. [The kind of piece that I wanted to write] was one he would have appreciated if he had been sitting in the front row.”
During the 1980s, Rutter was doing research on Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. “When the manuscripts were handed to me and I touched them,” recalls Rutter, “I think that was the moment when I realized I wanted to write a ‘Requiem’ myself.”
(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.