Lawrence University Presents Brahms Masterpiece “A German Requiem”

APPLETON, WIS. — Four separate choirs and two renowned guest soloists, all backed by the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra, will combine talents in a tour de force performance of Johannes Brahms’ musical masterpiece “A German Requiem” Saturday, April 28 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

The concert will include performances by the Lawrence Concert Choir, Cantala and Viking Chorale as well the community-based White Heron Chorale. In addition, baritone William McGraw and soprano Winifred Faix Brown will be featured as guest soloists.

Rick Bjella, director of choral studies at Lawrence, will conduct the 220 voices singing the work as well as the orchestra playing it.

Tickets for the concert, at $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens/students, are available at the Lawrence University Box Office, 420 E. College Ave., Appleton, or by phone at 920-832-6749. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the box office beginning one hour before the concert.

Completed in 1868 after the German composer had spent 11 years working on it, “A German Requiem” was performed publicly for the first time on Good Friday of that year, with Brahms himself conducting. It is considered by many music scholars to be his “magnum opus.”

“There is not a choral orchestral work from the 19th-century that is more popular than Brahms’ ‘A German Requiem,'” said Bjella. “Next to Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ this is the most performed choral orchestral work today.”

Unlike the traditional Catholic Church requiem service for the dead, Brahm’s requiem offers comfort and hope for the living as well as remembering the departed. According to Bjella, Brahms once wrote that he wished he had the courage to call his work a “Human” Requiem, rather than a German Requiem.

“Brahms indicated that this was not intended to be a liturgical presentation of a theological argument but a human, non-dogmatic, personal document,” said Bjella. “He clearly revealed that his intent was to write for all humankind.”

McGraw, who will be making his first appearance as Lawrence, is a professor of vocal studies at the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati. He has performed nationally and internationally, singing with the Greater Miami Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Boston Opera and Opera of Maracaibo, Venezuela, among others. He also has performed as a soloist at Carnegie Hall in conjunction with the New York Choral Society. His extensive list of roles include Figaro in “The Barber of Seville,” Marcello in “La Boheme,” the title role in “Rigoletto,” and John Proctor in “The Crucible.”

Brown, who performed as a guest soloist in Lawrence’s production of Verdi’s “Requiem” several years ago, is an internationally acclaimed soprano who has performed throughout Europe, North, Central and South America since the age of 17. She has been guest artist of the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera, as well as theatres in Berlin, Paris and Rome. She performs as soloist with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Brown also founded and serves as artistic director of CandleOpera and N.O.V.A. — the New Organization for Vocal Artistry in Chicago.

In addition to their performances in “German Requiem,” McGraw and Brown both will conduct master classes at Lawrence. McGraw will teach Thursday, April 26 at 11:10 a.m. in Harper Hall, while Brown will lead a class Friday, April 27 at 3:10 p.m. in Shattuck Hall, Room 163.