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Glorious resonance

If the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields’ selections from Mozart’s Requiem were stirring enough for the movie Amadeus, then the power of combined choirs performing the entire work, and more, could take it to another level.

Joined by the Hastings Choral Society, the Gisborne Choral Society will double in size for the long-awaited Mozart Requiem, part of the combined choirs’ Mighty Mozart programme.

“The two choirs have been getting together every two years for the impact provided by a larger ensemble, and the pleasure of singing together,” says GCS musical director Gavin Maclean.

Initially planned early last year, the Covid-19 alert responses have resulted in postponements for the production. The only upside has been the greater number of rehearsals means both choirs are primed to perform Requiem in the “glorious resonance” of St Andrew’s Church.

The Requiem is unusually passionate and powerful for a product of the classical era, and was used to great effect in the play (and movie) Amadeus, about the ominous approach of the composer’s premature death, says Maclean.

“Its dramatic sequences, written as urgent pleas of the religious for divine mercy, also served to portray the dark figure of death making its way to centre stage. The work clearly influenced Verdi, when, 80 years later, he composed his famously bombastic Requiem, in which some of Mozart’s phrases clearly resonate.

“Death was indeed approaching as Mozart penned the music. He did not finish it, but one of his pupils provided the finished version most often sung today.”

Student Franz Xaver Sussmayr filled in orchestrations of some movements, and carried out the master’s wish to repeat the opening fugue at the end.

Although Mozart left Sussmayr with detailed instructions about finishing it, the student copied the entire completed score in his own hand, which made it virtually impossible to determine who wrote what. But as Beethoven reportedly said, “If Mozart did not write the music, then the man who wrote it was a Mozart”, says a classicfm webpage.

Soloists will include Gisborne soprano Catherine Macdonald, Hastings contralto Elizabeth Gawler, young Wellington tenor LJ Crichton, and bass Joseph Christensen.

Accompaniment will be provided throughout by Wellington organist Tom Chatterton.

In the first half of the concert, the Gisborne singers will perform choruses from Mozart’s Idomeneo, an Italian-language opera that, despite its intended seriousness, includes the dramatic song, It’s Roaring, It’s Drumming, in, which a sea monster appears during a storm and the people are terrified.

The choir will also perform Ave verum corpus, and Te Deum, a work Mozart wrote at the age of 13 and which is said to show his characteristic verve and melodic brilliance. Solo and ensemble singers will sing other works.

The Gisborne Choral Society and Hastings Choral Society combine choirs to perform Mozart’s Requiem, and other works, in the glorious resonance of St Andrew’s Church on Sunday March 28 at 1 pm. Entry, $25.

MASS-IVE: Henoch–Schonlein purpura, chronic glomerulonephritis and mercury poisoning are among possible causes of Mozart’s death but could the Covid-19 pandemic kill Gisborne and Hastings choral societies’ production of Requiem? It could not. Franz Schramm’s 1857 lithograph, Moment from the Last Days of Mozart, depicts the dying composer with the score of his Requiem Mass in his lap as he gives student Sussmayr last-minute instructions about how to complete it. Picture supplied