The birth pangs of Mozart’s Requiem

This week I have been following Carlos’ exhortation to learn something of how Mozart’s Requiem came to be composed.  It’s a fascinating story and well worth getting to know.

Much of the detail is surrounded in mystery, and somethings can only be surmised.  There is a mountain of material, which I have tried to condense into something readable, while also leaving pointers to the detail for those who are interested.  You can read as much or as little of it as you have time for.

Click here to go to the top page, and browse at your will.

Happy reading!



Ken Hughes, OAM

It is great to report that Ken Hughes, a Friend of the Choir for many years, was awarded an OAM in the Australia Day Honours list.  This honour is in addition to the Australian Fire Service Medal which he was awarded in 2010.  We send him our heartiest congratulations.

Over the years Ken has assisted the Choir in many activities such as manning the car park and other essential behind the scenes jobs.  He has been very involved in many other community organisations, including the Rural Fire Service and a number of conservation projects, no doubt with the same level of commitment which he gave to Choir activities.   His honour is very well deserved.

Back at Choir again!

It was great to be back at Choir rehearsal last Thursday.  After several weeks’ break, exercising the rusty vocal chords and grappling with the intricacies of a maestro’s choral writing was a good way to spend an evening.  And of course it was great to catch up with friends during the break, hearing about overseas trips, inter-state journeys and other goings-on.  Some familiar faces were still missing, but hopefully they will return in the next few weeks.

Thank you, Naomi, for a great Bulletin this week.  The article from the Guardian and the Wikipedia entries for Mozart and Mozart Requiem are indeed fascinating in giving something of an insight into what we are about to sing.  There are also a number of books about Mozart, all of which contain further material about how Mozart came to write the Requiem, and how it came to be completed.  A particularly interesting one on the Amazon Australia website is by the artist Sacheverell Sitwell, someone who had a deep understanding of the creative process from his own personal experience and that of many artistic friends and colleagues.

Perhaps because of the circumstances of the Requiem’s incompleteness on Mozart’s death, a number of composers in addition to Sussmeyer have made their own attempts at its completion.  I remember several years ago hearing a version “completed and augmented”  by the Australian composer Gordon Kerry, sung by the Sydney Chamber Choir.  My records show that the highlight of the concert for me was not the Requiem, but the previous item, a selection from Victoria’s Tenebrae Responses – over thirty minutes of a cappella singing, brilliantly executed and perfectly in tune.

Maybe that suggests why Sussmeyer’s version seems to be the ending of choice.  Another very powerful reason is that it is most likely that Sussmeyer’s completion was commissioned by Mozart’s widow Constanze.

But whatever the machinations and intrigue that went into the creation of this wonderful piece of music, I have no doubt that we will all enjoy rehearsing it over the next few months, and gain a huge sense of satisfaction when we perform it in May.   We can look forward to hearing Carlos’ insights into the music and to understanding its true meaning and relevance.

It’s that time of year

It’s that time of year again.  The purple haze of the jacarandas is becoming gradually less intense as the blooms fade and fall; the lorikeets are wheezing asthmatically as they get together for another round of procreation; the sounds and smells of summer barbecues saturate the evening air.  And for Choir members, another season of singing is over.  Over the next few weeks, our families will be able to enjoy our company on Thursday evenings, rather than just sitting watching TV while we are rehearsing at CPPS.  Anne says she is particularly looking forward to that as Thursday night’s schedules are the worst of the week – she wonders if this is a conspiracy on the part of the networks!

And we Choir members can also justifiably bask in the afterglow of another year’s series of enjoyable and successful concerts.

This last pair of concerts seemed to go rather well, coming as a great relief after the last few rehearsals, which had been not a little fractious.

The Sunday performance in particular was fabulous, with everyone immersed in the music, singing confidently and fluently.  We should not have been surprised that the audience responded with very generous applause and some most complimentary comments over drinks and nibbles on the terrace afterwards.

My favourite comment came from one of  the new members of the orchestra.  I overheard her say to someone else, “What a great afternoon!  I had no idea that community choirs could sing as well as this!”

It’s a great feeling to have been part of it all.  Like most Choir members, I can’t wait for it all to start again next year.

We’ve got a luverly bunch of soloists

I do not know what it was that reminded me of the original song about coconuts last night at rehearsal, but at the end of the soloists’ rehearsal the phrase just came to mind.  They had sung beautifully individually, and, what is more, had blended extraordinarily well when singing together, which is not an easy task for four singers coming together for the first time.  Anita, Naomi, Ryan and Hayden are a great combination.

We in the Choir  think we have some difficult runs to sing in the Magnificat, but they are nothing as compared to what Bach asks of the soloists. Every solo piece – well this is Bach – has long, angular runs, often with little opportunity to take a breath. Perhaps the most notable examples are those in Deposuit potentes, which are not only tricky but also sung at great speed, as demonstrated so ably by Ryan O’Donnell.  And to think that we have the delightful Anna Yun to add to the mix next week!  What a line-up!

And we did not give too bad an account of ourselves in the Choir, certainly with the Bach Magnificat and the Handel Coronation Anthems.  The carols could certainly do with some polishing, but no doubt with some revision at home and two rehearsals next week, will be up to scratch on the night.

The audiences will be in for a real treat next weekend.  And we in the Choir should enjoy ourselves too!