A songful prayer for victims of 9/11


"Song," said the French writer-statesman Francois Rene de Chateaubriand, "is the daughter of prayer."

And as prayerful introspection takes hold tomorrow in commemoration of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, song will figure prominently in the ritual of tribute.

Beginning at the international date line and radiating outward, performances of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's choral Requiem will begin in the world's various time zones at 8:46 a.m., the moment of the first attack on the World Trade Center.

The Annapolis installment of what has been dubbed the "Rolling Requiem" will take place at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts tomorrow morning.

Ernest Green, conductor of the Annapolis Chorale, will lead members of his ensemble, singers from other area choirs, and 30 musicians from the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Mozart's dramatic setting of Catholicism's liturgy for the dead.

Maestro Green will give the downbeat to this free 50-minute concert at exactly 8:46 a.m. "This is one of those occasions when there was no hesitation on the part of anyone called to do it," Green said. "This is a collaborative venture between the chorale, the symphony, Maryland Hall and the community. That feeling of unity has been rewarding for all of us."

ASO Executive Director Tanya Robles, who will be singing in the chorus tomorrow morning, said the orchestra is very proud to be participating in this special observance.

"Throughout the past year, arts organizations have played an important role in our nation's healing from the terrorist attacks," Robles said.

Soprano Amy Cofield, mezzo-soprano Catrin Davies, tenor Jeremy Blossey and bass Ryan De Ryke will be soloists in the Requiem.

No speeches will be given at the concert. Translations of the Latin text will be provided in the printed program.

Adding to the pathos of the occasion will be badges worn by the 150 singers, each bearing the name of a person killed in the attacks on Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon.

American recording companies with the cooperation of Local 40-543 of the American Federation of Musicians funded the instrumental music for the performance. The James F. Coleman Memorial Fund is underwriting soloist fees.

The Requiem was Mozart's valedictory composition. Indeed, death approached so quickly in the eleventh month of the composer's 36th year that he did not have time to complete it. The standard performing edition was completed by one of Mozart's students, Franz Xaver Sussmayr (1766-1803), at the request of Constanze Mozart, the composer's widow.

"It is a very appropriate piece for this occasion," Green said. "There's a powerful sense of grief and angst associated with it."

As it became clear to Mozart that he was dying, Green said, the composer called friends together to sing sketched-out portions of the Mass, such as the mystically intense "Lacrimosa" and was so overcome by it he couldn't bear to hear more.

Perhaps, said Green, this is why the Mozart was chosen instead of a more overtly consolational work like the German Requiem of Johannes Brahms, a nonliturgical memorial to the departed that is more universalistic in its conception.

"You can't divorce the Mozart Requiem from the circumstances of Mozart's own death," he said. "When he began it, he was a month or so away from death and didn't know it. The entire piece is a consequence of the tragic way things unfolded, and that establishes a powerful connection to this occasion."

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