The Chamber Singers of Iowa City will celebrate spring with two great events: a party and the final concert of the season.
First, the party. “Gala in the Clouds,” the Singers’ second fundraising extravaganza, will soar into the sky from 2 to 5 p.m. April 27 at Plaza Towers, 221 E. College St., No. 1106 in downtown Iowa City.
The festivities will include splendid hor d’oeuvres, excellent wine, craft beer, and, of course, great music, as well as both a live and a silent auction. Did we mention the view? Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at icchambersingers.org/tickets.
The Singers will present Maurice Duruflé’s “Requiem and Other Pieces” at 3 p.m. May 18 at the Congregational Church, corner of Clinton and Jefferson streets in Iowa City.
The music this season has been about contrasts and similarities: the first concert featuring the Fall and Winter sections from Haydn’s “The Seasons.” The second concert, “Agony and Ecstasy,” juxtaposed works by Renaissance composer Tomás Luis de Victoriawith a new work by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo. It combined chant-like melodic line with text from St. John of the Cross’s “Dark Night of the Soul” and Gjeilo’s modern chords and rhythms to give an entirely new interpretation of that venerable text.
For the final concert, music director David Puderbaugh has chosen to contrast ancient chant melodies from the Requiem Mass — the Mass for the Dead — with the modern Duruflé Requiem. While the chant version stresses loss, suffering, and the potential for an eternity spent in fiery punishment, Duruflé’s interpretation stresses comfort for both the person who has died and for those left to mourn their passing.
Duruflé had been working on a set of pieces based in Gregorian chant when he was commissioned to compose the requiem in 1947. His father’s death at about that time may have added poignancy to the work and could very well have softened his approach to the requiem form. Consequently, we hear subtle implications in the text that are often missed in other requiems. The solo parts for mezzo-soprano and baritone are especially beautiful, even heartbreaking.
Set in nine movements, Duruflé omits the Gradual, the Tract, and most of the “Dies irae.” By doing so, Duruflé gives himself the freedom to add three works normally used in the burial service and the final farewell from the church. His “Pie Jesu, Libera me,” and “In Paradisum” mirror Fauré’s. The two Requiems are often paired in performance.
For this concert, however, Puderbaugh has added a second work by Duruflé, his “Ubi caritas.” This piece is much beloved by choristers and audiences alike. For many of the Singers, this piece holds fond memories. This does not make it easier to sing, as it has, for all its straight-forward text and chord structure, many difficult passages that — when performed correctly — make the piece even more beautiful than it is in memory.
James Petersen sings with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City and the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre.