Sym­phony to play ‘War Re­quiem’

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Arts & Culture - BY DAVID BURKE

Lead­ers of the Wi­chita Sym­phony Or­ches­tra say sched­ul­ing Ben­jamin Brit­ten’s “The War Re­quiem” for per­for­mances next week­end comes from a sense of cul­tural and his­toric obli­ga­tion.

The two per­for­mances of the work – rec­og­nized by many ex­perts as one of the most dif­fi­cult pieces to con­vey for both its text and mu­si­cal mas­tery – will in­clude a per­for­mance on Nov. 11, the cen­ten­nial an­niver­sary of Armistice Day, which ended World War I. The date has been cel­e­brated since as Vet­er­ans Day.

“We’ve been plan­ning for this maybe as long as four years ago,” sym­phony CEO Don Rein­hold said, “when we looked at the cal­en­dar and re­al­ized that our Sun­day con­cert would fall on the week­end of the 100th an­niver­sary of the Armistice.”

The Wi­chita Sym­phony will join dozens of sym­phonies – in­clud­ing Tulsa, Ok­la­homa City, At­lanta, Colorado Springs, Toronto and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. – in per­form­ing the Brit­ten on the same day, with­out any co­or­di­na­tion or col­lab­o­ra­tion among the groups.

“It seemed like, to us, a no-brainer,” Rein­hold said. “It was an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing ex­tremely sig­nif­i­cant in re­mem­brance of an im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal event that peo­ple paid for with their lives.”

Brit­ten’s “Re­quiem,” first per­formed in 1962, puts mu­sic to the poetry of Wil­fred Owen, a soldier who was killed in ac­tion a week be­fore the Armistice.

“He lost his life, but he lived on in these po­ems from the per­spec­tive of a soldier in the trenches,” Rein­hold said. “They’re heart­break­ing and they’re

ter­ri­fy­ing.”

Owen’s poetry is in­ter­spersed with the text of a tra­di­tional Latin mass.

“It’s a very in­trigu­ing piece struc­turally and it has this po­tent mes­sage,” Rein­hold said. “Brit­ten’s in­tent was to make peo­ple think.”

Tenor Matthew DiBat­tista and bari­tone Timothy Le­Feb­vre sing Owen’s text backed by a smaller cham­ber or­ches­tra that also will be on stage at Cen­tury II. So­prano Courte­nay Budd is the third soloist.

Brit­ten’s score, which uses trum­pet calls to sig­nify the call to bat­tle and per­cus­sion to demon­strate the crash of can­nons and guns, “makes it a very im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in many ways,” Rein­hold said.

Be­sides the soloists, a 140-mem­ber adult choir and a 30-voice chil­dren’s choir con­vey the texts.

Michael Hanawalt, who con­ducts the cho­ruses, said the text has moved the adult singers.

“It’s def­i­nitely sunk in for the adults,” said Hanawalt, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of cho­ral mu­sic at Wi­chita State. “There are a num­ber of them who are vet­er­ans and at least close to an age where they can re­mem­ber World War II and the wars of the last half of the 20th cen­tury.”

One of the cho­rus mem­bers is pro­vid­ing pa­per pop­pies for the singers to wear on the days of the per­for­mances, he said.

The text is im­pact­ful, Hanawalt said.

“The main theme of his piece is that war is dif­fi­cult and it shouldn’t ever be sug­ar­coated in any way,” he said. “(Brit­ten) has writ­ten a cor­re­spond­ingly dense, dif­fi­cult piece that is im­mensely heavy. You per­form this piece and you hear this piece and you come away feel­ing the weight of this mu­sic.”

Be­sides the weight of the text, the piece is tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing, Hanawalt said.

“It’s quite dif­fi­cult, both har­mon­i­cally and rhyth­mi­cally. Keep­ing ev­ery­thing to­gether with me­ter changes and tempo changes and the har­monic changes is quite dif­fi­cult,” he said. “It is eas­ily the most dif­fi­cult piece that I have done with a cho­rus since I’ve been di­rect­ing. Give me an­other 10 years and it prob­a­bly still will be.”

Rein­hold said the con­clu­sion will leave lumps in the throats of the au­di­ence, with the text “Into Par­adise may the An­gels lead thee -- at thy com­ing may the Mar­tyrs re­ceive thee.”

In an­nounc­ing the Brit­ten “Re­quiem” for the 2018-19 sea­son, con­duc­tor and mu­sic di­rec­tor Daniel Hege said the con­tent still holds true 100 years later.

The per­for­mances are part of a city­wide re­mem­brance of the Armistice an­niver­sary next week­end, co­or­di­nated by the sym­phony, Wi­chita Art Mu­seum and the Wi­chi­taSedg­wick County His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum. Where: Tick­ets:

ARMISTICE RE­MEM­BERED

The cen­ten­nial of the World War I Armistice is re­mem­bered this month by the Wi­chita Sym­phony, Wi­chita Art Mu­seum and Wi­chita-Sedg­wick County His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum.

In ad­di­tion to the per­for­mances, the Sym­phony of­fers pre-con­cert talks by mu­sic di­rec­tor and con­duc­tor Daniel Hege one hour be­fore each per­for­mance.

The Art Mu­seum cur­rently fea­tures an ex­hibit, “Over Here, Over There: Amer­i­can Print­mak­ers Go to War, 1914-1918,” and will of­fer a Mess Kit

Lunch (reser­va­tions rec­om­mended) be­gin­ning at 11 a.m. Sun­day, Nov. 11, fol­lowed by a lec­ture by Wi­chita State Uni­ver­sity his­tory pro­fes­sor John Dreifort on “The Great War and ‘No Fu­tures for This Gen­er­a­tion.’”

The His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum will present a lec­ture, “The Great War’s Im­pact at Home” by Robert E. Weems Jr., pro­fes­sor of Busi­ness His­tory at Wi­chita State. This lec­ture takes place at 2 p.m. on Satur­day, Nov. 10, at the His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum.

Fol­low­ing the Sun­dayafter­noon per­for­mance of “The War Re­quiem,” the His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum will com­plete the day-long ex­plo­ration of World War I with “Re­flec­tion and Ex­plo­ration” that in­cludes a re­cep­tion, mu­sic and ex­hi­bi­tions. In ad­di­tion, the Wi­chita Pub­lic Li­brary will present a com­pan­ion event of a poetry read­ing and mu­sic at its Se­nior Wednes­day, which will be at 1:30 p.m. on in the new Ad­vanced Learn­ing Li­brary.

Wil­fred Owen

Michael Hanawalt

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