Chorus and orchestra combine for stunning performance of Mozart’s Requiem

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The only superlative the capacity crowd could find to describe Saturday night’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem by the College Chorus and Orchestra was “powerful.” Yet, in that single descriptor were wrapped up profound respect and awe at vocal and instrumental efforts involved in a showing of one of Mozart’s most famous works. The 82 member chorus and a selection of the orchestra, both directed by John Alston, put forth a moving and stunning rendition of the piece penned primarily by Mozart on his death bed.

The concert began with a performance of Orlando di Lassus’s Missa pro Defunctis by the College Chamber Choir. This group, singing without accompaniment, prepared the audience for the musical experience to come with a moving rendition of a different requiem by Lassus. Though Lassus’ interpretation of the requiem mass was slightly different, the Chamber Choir performance afforded the audience a chance to adjust to listening to sung Latin and to admire the vocal power of some of the group’s most dedicated singers.
After a short break to bring the orchestra onstage, director John Alston–a master of the crowd and emotionally invested to the pieces he conducted last night to an incredible degree–took a few moments to address the audience to explain the story behind the commissioning of the piece. Obviously aware that all a large portion of the audience knew about Mozart was gleaned from the movie “Amadeus,” Alston used the orchestra as an audio aide to give the audience a deeper appreciation and understanding of the composer’s talent and the story behind the piece’s completion by Süssmayr.

Following an announcement encouraging the audience to follow the words of the requiem in Latin and English in the provided program, Alston set the chorus and orchestra off on a musical tour de force. The piece was divided into 14 sections, some of which featured section soloists Tamara Ryan (soprano), Chelain Goodman (alto), Ben Mitchell (tenor), and Scott Long (bass). While the entire orchestra and chorus performed beautifully, Ryan and Long’s exposed parts were particularly well-sung and moving. The trombone section did yeoman’s work throughout the night, with a particular highlight coming in the form of a solo from the trombone of engineering professor Carr Everbach.

All told, the two performing groups mixed wonderfully to perform Mozart’s Requiem as it deserves to be performed–in a manner that left a capacity crowd describing the concert as nothing less than an absolutely powerful experience.

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