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Gerald Carpenter: Choral Society to Preview Its Tour d’Espana

The ensemble, headed to Spain in June, will perform Saturday in Hahn Hall

As previews of the program it will take on its 2011 Tour d’Espana, the Santa Barbara Choral Society will perform concerts at 8 p.m. this Saturday, April 16, in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West, 1070 Fairway Road in Santa Barbara, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at St. Marks in the Valley Episcopal Church, 2901 Nojoqui Ave. in Los Olivos.

The centerpiece of the program is the sublime Requiem in D-Minor, Opus 48 of Gabriel Fauré, but the concert, conducted by Music Director JoAnne Wasserman, will also include acappella and piano-accompanied selections from the Tour d’Espana concert the ensemble will perform June 18-30 in Spain.

Fauré composed his Requiem in D-Minor, Opus 48 between 1887 and 1890 (except for the “Libera Me” section, which he had composed in 1877 as a separate work). The Requiem comes in three versions — the first, which the composer called “a little Requiem,” had five movements; the second version, known as the chamber-orchestra version, he expanded the “Offeratory” and added the “Libera Me” from 1877; and the third and most familiar version, for full orchestra, was prepared at the request of his publisher, though there is some doubt as to who did the orchestrating. It may well have been one of Fauré’s students.

The flame of religion burned pretty low in Fauré. There is much speculation, but no certainty, as to why he wrote this ethereal masterpiece. It was not a commission. He told a journalist that the work was “composed for nothing — for fun, if I may be permitted to say so!” This remark can be put in some context. Fauré had spent many years as a church organist, playing dreary music for burials. He decided, perhaps, to prepare a lighter accompaniment to that last journey. His religious beliefs do not seem to have encompassed much in the way of an afterlife, certainly no Last Judgment and no heavenly social life. He seems, if anything, to have conceived of death as a release, and of eternity as an endless, peaceful snooze:

“It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death,” he wrote, “and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience. … As to my Requiem, perhaps I have also instinctively sought to escape from what is thought right and proper, after all the years of accompanying burial services on the organ! I know it all by heart. I wanted to write something different.”

So, let us give the artist the last word: “Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion, I put into my Requiem,” he wrote, “which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.”

Tickets to Saturday’s concert are $20 in advance or $25 at the door, and are available at Chaucer’s Books, online at www.sbchoral.org or by calling 805.965.6577. Admission to the Los Olivos concert will be a suggested donation at the door.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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