Requiem by Heinrich von Biber. Performed by the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Victoria Children’s Choir and St. Christopher’s Singers. Pacific Baroque Festival 2011
Part One (of Five)
An enthusiastic audience graced Alix Goolden Hall for the opening concert of the 2011 Pacific Baroque Festival. Introduced by Jane Butler McGregor, the Executive Director of the Victoria Conservatory of Music, the 11am concert “Virtuoso Violin Music, and some Animals”, the Pacific Baroque Orchestra Ensemble entertained with pieces by Johann Schmelzer, Antonio Bertali, and Heinrich Biber.
The festival series continues with an organ concert featuring Reinhard Jaul at Christ Church Cathedral, a Friday and Saturday evening concert at Alix Goolden Hall, and a Sunday afternoon Vespers at Christ Church Cathedral. Tickets and Information – tickets are also available at the door.
The Pacific Baroque Orchestra Ensemble
Concert Music for Violin Virtuosi & some Animals
Thursday, February 3rd 2011
more of the concert
Emma Gillespie, soloist
This is the fourth year the Victoria Childrens Choir has performed at the Pacific Baroque Festival, although only the second year I have been involved. This year we are performing a work quite unlike anything I have sung before. Heinrich Ignaz Biber’s Requiem in F minor is fascinating, to say the least. When singing or listening to it, one gets the feeling that Biber enjoyed playing with his audience, as well as his singers. He writes complex and challenging rhythms. There are harmonies that are a pure delight to sing, as well as ones that almost leave a bitter taste in your mouth as a singer. In some sections he takes a one- or two-bar phrase and repeats it many times, bringing it in and out of other melodies and phrases, having this section sing it, then this section, until, as my choir director put it, “It’s like you’re watching a five-team tennis match.” In the ‘Kyrie’ section of the piece, one two-bar phrase is repeated 17 times in total. I find one section particularly challenging, for a number of reasons. The parts are set in a fast and complicated canon, and the rhythm has become fondly known in the choir as ‘hemiola heaven.’
I have had the great pleasure and privilege of being one of the soloists for this performance. It has been an incredibly joyful challenge to work together with the other soloists to find out how our voices blend, how each one stands out and how we can best improve on what Biber has created.
The Requiem is in a minor key, but occasionally Biber brings in a melody or harmony that is distinctly major. It adds a contrast that is very joyful and adds a great deal to the piece. What I find especially interesting is how Biber chooses to end the entire piece, making the final chord F major instead of F minor. Because, of course, the piece was written to be sung at a funeral, it speaks to me of a desire to leave us with something hopeful, as if to say, “All is not lost.” Indeed, the Requiem’s last words are “for You are merciful.”
It is a great privilege to be able to add our voices to the masterpiece Biber created. I have fully enjoyed working on the Requiem and I am so excited to sing this for all of you at the concert!
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