Massed choirs to perform Forrest’s Requiem for the Living

April 3, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

In what may be a Canadian premiere, a massed choir and 18-piece orchestra will perform Requiem For the Living, a new work by American composer Dan Forest, at Orangeville’s Westminster United Church on April 15.

Led by maestro John Wervers, the New Tecumseth Singers, Dufferin Concert Singers and Amaranth Chamber Choir  will be accompanied by members of the Hart House Orchestra and Nancy Sicsic as organist.

Mr. Wervers praises the sacred work and its composer: “Dan Forrest has done a wonderful job with this; the traditional and contemporary are balanced – it’s very rhythmical as well.”

This is a tremendous finale for the season, pulling together not only all the area choirs that Mr. Wervers has founded and for each of which he is artistic director and conductor but, also, individuals who love to sing but whose lives do not allow them to join a choir full-time and commit to all the rehearsals and performances.

For this concert, as a one-time effort, those who might otherwise be members of the audience, without auditioning (meaning, they know themselves well enough to understand whether they can truly participate in such a large choral piece), are invited to be a part of a whole presentation, to be inside the heart of it.

Singing large works is extremely good for the heart, the lungs and the emotions. Singing at all is good for all that, explaining the popularity of the sing-a-long Messiah. Music is the food of the soul, the last memory to go, the one thing that can bring back our minds from the brink of dementia and Alzheimer’s, in a great many instances.

So, to offer this opportunity to people who would not normally participate in such a concert because their day-to-day lives cannot usually accommodate the scheduling, is a great gift. It is a brief period, from January to mid April.

When rehearsals involve people coming to a central location from varying distances, this is the real test of commitment and good logistics. With members of the Amaranth Chamber Choir, for example, they each might live some distance from their point of rehearsal. As they are or have been generally involved professionally with music, fewer rehearsals are necessary than with a community choir.

This time around, with 18 members of Hart House Chamber Orchestra who are paid for time of travel and rehearsals, it only makes sense for the choirs’ members to carpool or do whatever is best to meet the orchestra in Toronto for the last rehearsals before the concert itself.

This is what it takes to put such a large performance together: large in the music and the numbers of people putting it on. In the end, the audience comes away full of joy from the singing and the singers, perhaps tired but, certainly, elated at having had the privilege of being included, whether ongoing or for just this one time around.

There are many interesting aspects of this Requiem.  Written in Latin, mainly, with some English, “the choir has to be in the right groove,” was Mr. Wervers’ comment.

He elaborated, “The solos [there are four soloists] are embroidered within the choral – balanced – give and take.”

He raised his hand in a conductor’s gesture to demonstrate, “The choir is singing and the solos come and go, weaving through the music.”

In the second  part of the concert, we will be treated to lighter songs: some short works by John Rutter; a Zulu piece and the Dufferin Youth Singers, a children’s choir Mr. Wervers founded in the last couple of years.

They will offer their own songs and join the massed choir to sing together. Fantastic.

So, Westminster United Church, Sunday, April 15. The concert begins at 3:30 p.m. Doors open at 3:00 p.m. (The same program will be offered the previous evening at Alliston’s Grace Baptist Church.)

Tickets for April 15 ($20; children under 16 free) can be purchased at BookLore, Westminster Church or at the door.

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