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His view on Mozart from inside the Pacific Chorale

February 04, 2013|By Randy Lewis
  • Times pop music writer Randy Lewis joins the Pacific Chorale and the Pacific Symphony during Mozart concerts in Costa Mesa.
Times pop music writer Randy Lewis joins the Pacific Chorale and the Pacific… (Pacific Symphony )

One takeaway from the last four days I spent singing Mozart’s Requiem, Ave Verum Corpus and two other of the composer’s works while embedded with the Pacific Chorale and Pacific Symphony for four concerts: Should you ever have the chance to sing some of the greatest vocal music ever written surrounded by full choir and orchestra, by all means grab it.

I’ll be writing more in depth about the entire experience, but for now, suffice to say it was a musical excursion beyond expectation. I suggested the bold experiment solely with the goal of joining professionals to sing a three- or four-minute piece I already knew intimately (the 3½-minute long Ave Verum), but it quickly blossomed into the unanticipated opportunity to learn and sing another I had heard but never seriously explored (the nearly hour-long Requiem).

Many indelible moments about the Requiem remain: the delicacy of delivering, and feeling, the line “et lux perpetua luceat eis” (let perpetual light shine on them) in the first movement; the firepower nearly 120 voices brought to “Dies irae, dies illa” (Day of wrath, day of anger) in the “Dies Irae” section; the explosiveness of the full-throttle “Rex!” (King) at the opening of “Rex Tremendae” reverberating through the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa; the transcendent, anguished beauty of “Lacrimosa dies illa” (That day of tears and morning) in the “Lacrimosa”; the architectural perfection of the “Amen” fugue, to cite only a few.

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My raison d’etre for the whole adventure, the Ave Verum Corpus, became a shared prayer among the singers, the members of the orchestra and its music director, Carl St.Clair, and the audiences each night, no hint of music-making by rote, at least from where I stood. And each night, a long silence followed the closing notes before applause finally broke out.

Despite having sung that piece hundreds of times on my own with dozens of different recordings, I nevertheless gained new insights and -- something I would have thought impossible three weeks ago -- a more profound appreciation for a composition that St.Clair told the audience “has been described as ‘the most beautiful piece of music ever written’.”

Amen to that.


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