In its first performance anywhere, Gary Bachlund's Requiem, "For the Victims of AIDS," given at All Saints Church in Pasadena, occupied half a program benefiting the All Saints AIDS Service Center.
Heard Saturday night, the Requiem is in the familiar modern style, leavening grim pain with modest, 20th-Century conservatism and the accessible lightness of sentimental, popular outbursts. The naive, highly relevant text was compiled by Bachlund from Job, from the Latin Mass for the Dead and from original materials.
The style works. For example, after a jaunty Dies Irae recalling medieval plagues in a rude, "Carmina Burana" way, baritone David Ault sang about death's "enormous voice" with sophisticated, Broadway inflections.
After the men of the chorus sang angrily about the undiscriminating variety of AIDS' victims, mezzo Deborah Shulman belted a crowd-pleasing song based on a text about a hideous "dark, red holocaust."
Scored for four soloists and chorus accompanied by organ, piano, harp and percussion, the well-paced, 40-minute Requiem shows that an internationally known tenor can write beautifully for both chorus and solo voices, as demonstrated particularly in the superb, Brittenesque tenor solos--sung here magnificently by Jonathan Mack.
In fact, Bachlund, who last appeared with L.A. Music Center Opera in "Fidelio" in 1990, has been working on a composition degree at UCLA for a number of years. The Requiem, which deserves to be heard again, represents his Masters thesis.
This event reportedly raised more than $10,000 for the All Saints Service Center.
The rest of the evening was like Bachlund's Requiem: angry, bittersweet, ecstatic, uplifting and sometimes giddy. The music ranged from pop tunes to excerpts from Vivaldi's "Gloria" and Dalila's "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix."
There were also dramatic readings, highlighted by Iona Morris' powerful performance of Alice Eve Cohen's "Elegy" and a poignant remembrance of a friend by Matthew Laurance of "Beverly Hills 90210." Still, it was not an evening of stars.