The flick of a page, the dimming of the lights, the flowing sway of the choir. That, on its own level, was mesmerizing. When the words suddenly breached my mind, and invested it with verses of death and life, I knew I was trapped. My sporadic thoughts of what it all meant were suddenly hushed, as the narrator spun onto the stage, spewing a poetic commentary on something everyone knew, but something no-one ever spoke of. These ambiguous thoughts running around in my brain became clear only when the music began.
I entered the Belk Theater at Robinson Hall Friday evening for the first time ever. I was there not only for my love of music, but also for my desire to be in a dark theater alone, but altogether among strangers. The event that was about to play out on the stage was an interpretation of 19th century composer Johannes Brahms’ A German Requiem. An elegant blend of choral and orchestra first created as a sacred worship for the dead, the famous Requiem now became a mournful celebration of the both the living and the dead.
While I may not have known much about the event going in, the dynamic words of the event’s narrator set the scene for the night almost perfectly. A study of the human experience, especially our inclination to judge others by the way they look, act and speak, the narrator’s strong words could have resonated with nearly every person sitting in that theater. For me, my mind of course sprung to the recent polarization of the country over the indifference towards minorities. Holding onto that massive commentary of hatred and injustice as the narrator spoke, I began to realize the purpose of this performance that was about to unfold.
We are all different. We all live on this earth. We will all die at some point in our lives, either unexpectedly or on our own terms. We all have hopes, dreams, desires, fears and we are all judged by someone at some point in our lifetime. That is exactly what makes us human, and exactly what makes us no different from one another. We all mourn, pray, experience happiness and darkness in all different facets. But in those facets, we find a strange and unpredictable unity. A unity that binds us as humans together, as one.
The interpretation of Brahm’s Requiem, entitled Requiem of Solace, painted an experience of life and death, mourning and celebration, prayer and worship, congregated among a sea of breathtaking performers. Young and old, black and white, male and female, the performance brought messages of hope and humanity into a state of global uncertainty; an uncertainty accompanied by a great sense of despair.
These overarching themes danced around my brain and my heart as I settled in for the performance. While the vibrant voices of soprano Alissa Deeter and baritone Dennis Jesse echoed monstrously throughout the auditorium, it was the University Chorale in the background that ultimately crafted the mournful atmosphere of the night. Swaying in the darkness like angels with broken wings, you could hear the conflict in their voices, the constant fight to give into the overbearing injustice surrounding them. Nevertheless, they stood as one, never once breaking my attention from the many faces of the choir.
I left the theater that night with the eerie melodies of pianists Arlene Shrut and Renate Rohlfing, as well as the ideas behind Jocelyn Hagen’s ‘Facets’ composition, rotating effortlessly in my brain. I didn’t feel as if I had just escaped a never-ending opera, but rather that I had slipped out from a rather fantastic and intimate dialogue of healing and harmony. I felt as I had not simply observed as a distant bystander to the despair of others, but that I had somehow contributed to the message of connection and identity that this compassionate performance was trying to portray.
For more information about the contributing choral group of the event, Sine Nomine, visit http://www.wearesinenomine.com/#our-story
To find out what exciting music events are coming to UNC Charlotte this Spring, visit click here.