The University of Minnesota School of Music has embarked on an international project inspired by the 50th anniversary of Benjamin Britten's transcendent work, War Requiem. Carlson School junior Claire Repp, a member of the University choir, is one of only four University undergraduates who secured a coveted position in the University group that is performing the piece.
"As a business student, getting to be able to tour with people who make works like this, and having the opportunity to reach into another school and learn all I can despite the fact that I'm headed in a different career, is an opportunity I wish for everybody," says Repp, a marketing major.
Written for the reconsecration of England's Coventry Cathedral, which was bombed by the Germans in World War II, War Requiem is a large-scale, non-liturgical setting of the Requiem Mass (Mass for the dead) with nine poems by English poet and fallen World War I soldier Wilfred Owen interwoven throughout the piece. The piece requires two orchestras, multiple choirs and solo singers, and is over 80-minutes in length.
"In the work it really describes that people on the other side are not the enemy; it is war that's the enemy," says Repp. "That's really what I learned, to say nothing of the extremely challenging piece. We've been working on it for six months."
The first leg of the project brought the University contingent to Detmold, Germany where it collaborated on the piece with the Detmold Hochschule für Musik, a local choir, and a group from Augustana College Choir (Rockland, Ill.). "We really got a perspective of the magnitude of [World War II] and what it meant to so many people," says Repp of the collaboration. "It was just really rewarding to perform it with Germans."
Both performances in Detmold were sold out, and after the first performance Repp says the audience's reaction spoke volumes to the power of the piece.
"There was two to three minutes of silence. No one really dared clap because it's a very heavy piece to take in. And when they did clap, they clapped for about 15 minutes. I've never seen anything like it."
The University group will perform "Benjamin Britten's War Requiem: A 50th Anniversary Remembrance Concert" at the Ted Mann Concert Hall on March 1 with members of Detmold Hochschule für Musik Orchestra and Choir, Macalester College Concert Choir, Kantorei, Minnesota Boychoir, and Quad City Choral Arts (Davenport, Iowa). The University group will also perform at the Adler Theatre, Davenport, Iowa, on March 3, and at Centennial Hall, Augustana College, Rock Island, Ill, on March 4.