First, a little story about your author. I came into the choral singing world a little late in life. I moved to Florida with my family when I was 38 years old. I always loved singing in church, but where we came from in upstate New York our church did not have a choir. I was content to sit in the pews and contribute vocally, and had some fellow parishioners who liked to sit near me because I was willing to sing. When I moved down here, the church we attended had a choir of about 100 singers. I was blown away by the music….actually cried in church several times upon hearing some old favorites being done particularly well. I vowed that when my work schedule permitted, I would sign up. My wife and I joined less than a year later.
I loved the choir. Our Director had a gift for picking music that was beautiful, and the choir had the depth of membership that they could handle some complex works. He loved John Rutter in particular and we performed a lot of his compositions. In 1991, he scheduled a spring concert featuring Rutter’s Requiem. The concert went well and I presented our Director with an “I survived the Rutter Requiem” t-shirt. That got a good laugh from everybody.
Fast forward to a year later. I had the opportunity to attend a few Master Chorale and Florida Orchestra concerts and l heard they were having a summer sing. They were going to sing through the Rutter Requiem and the Fauré Requiem. We signed up to go and arrived at the Jaeb Theater. Dr. Anton Armstrong of St. Olaf’s College was directing….wow! We did a read through of each Requiem, fixed some issues along the way and then sang both of them in their entirety. I was in hog heaven! This was the first time I ever sang the Fauré Requiem and I loved it. Furthermore, I got to sing it with the premier choral ensemble in the Tampa Bay area. Now that was cool!
When I was in the Christian Community Chorale, I had several fellow singers who also sang in The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, and they were encouraging me to consider joining. In 2007, my work schedule changed to the point that I could make the rehearsal schedule, and I scheduled an audition. After I was accepted into the Chorale, I was given my first piece of music to perform with The Florida Orchestra…..the Fauré Requiem. What better piece of music for my first performance in The Master Chorale with The Florida Orchestra? I was nervous enough as it was to be a newbie in this great ensemble, but Mr. Fauré’s Requiem gave me a little less cause for concern. I was in a new environment, but I felt some comfort with this beautiful piece of music that I had sung on two prior occasions. It was with a prayer of thanks that I went on stage with my fellow singers. The experience was breathtaking and it moved me to tears.
Now it is 2015, eight years since I first joined The Master Chorale, and over 20 years since I first was introduced to Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. We are scheduled to perform the Requiem on February 7th at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg and February 8th at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Thanks to Dr. Bass’ impeccable direction and preparation, I feel confident that we will acquit ourselves well. It is important that we do, for this will be the first time we perform a work with The Florida Orchestra under their new Music Director, Michael Francis. As Dr. Bass told us, we have only one chance to make a good first impression. Personally, I am thrilled to be at the starting point of what promises to be a fruitful collaboration with Michael Francis and The Florida Orchestra.
In retrospect, it is funny how this musical karma has worked out. Normally a Requiem is something that marks the end of a life, but here it’s something that has marked a new beginning. My favorite part of the Fauré Requiem is the final movement, “In Paradisum”, and now I understand why, for the lyrics speak of a new beginning too.
If you want to experience your own first with Fauré’s Requiem, please plan on attending one of our concerts. As Michael Francis gives the first downbeat of his baton with The Master Chorale and The Florida Orchestra on stage, you will be a witness to a once in a lifetime event. Let it become a part of your own musical karma.