The title of the program was “Eternal Light” and featured the Requiem of Gabriel Faure and Kurt Knecht’s Media Vita. However, interspersed with the longer works were hymns that the congregation joined in singing. The choir’s artistic director and conductor, Joshua Norris, explained the theme for the evening in the program “I wanted to focus on one of the most significant, but neglected of themes: death and eternal life… The choir has worked diligently to present to you in a thoughtful way what we believe is one of the most important of Christian ideals to remember: life is indeed eternal!”
The hymns on the program were “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” “Now the Green Blade Rises,” and “For All the Saints.” Some are about death, but always returning to the theme of hope and faith in resurrection and eternal life. The Faure Requiem featured soloists Rebecca Shane (soprano) and Dr. William Shomos (baritone) and goes from the dark moments like “Dies illa, dies irae” (That day, the day of wrath) to the beautiful, angelic closing movement “In Paradisum” (Into Paradise).
After intermission, the audience was finally treated to the premiere of Media Vita. With the composer at the piano, an orchestra consisting of violin, viola, cello, bass, horn, harp, and timpani performed along with the choir. The composer stated that he found the text for this piece in the Lutheran “Little Hours for the Dead” which he had not previously known to exist but found in an old Lutheran hymnal. The texts come from Job, St. Paul, and Isaiah and focus on the themes of the concert: death and eternal life.
As usual with Knecht’s pieces, many musical techniques and styles were in play throughout the piece. He has a great talent in using all the musical styles from the past and present. One moment might sound like it’s from the Renaissance, another from the Baroque, and then a chord happens that reminds us that the 20th century brought atonality to the scene. Knecht created a musical panorama utilizing exactly the musical style that he needed to bring the text to life.
The five movements of Media Vita were: Si Bona Suscepimus (Shall we receive good), Credo, quod Redemptor meus (I know that my Redeemer), Si credimus (If we believe), Ecce, quomodo moritur Justus (Behold, how the righteous dieth), and In pace in id idipsum dormiam (I will lay me down in peace and sleep). Shomos sang a baritone solo for the second movement, and the fourth movement began with a soprano solo sung by Shane.
Despite the printed request in the program that the audience hold their applause until the end of the concert, the church erupted in applause as the audience leapt to their feet at the end of the piece.
Keep track of Knecht’s recitals, concerts, and premieres by following his blog or his facebook page.