Concert and Chamber Choirs

Williams Concert Choir
A German Requiem

Brad Wells, director

The Williams College Department of Music presents The Williams Concert and Chamber Choirs under the direction of Brad Wells on Friday, April 16 and Saturday, April 17 at 8 p.m. in Thompson Memorial Chapel. These free events are open to the public and tickets are not required.

Many of the great composers created some of their greatest and most inspiring work while musically contemplating a topic common to all: death. The requiem is an art form often bound with religion or even a particular religion, though Brahms shows us that it does not have to be dogmatic. Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) is interesting to us today, and still important because Brahms seems to channel another universe, one created from the most beautiful music ever conceived by the human mind. Audiences and performers connect with this piece partly because Brahms sought out themes that embrace us all. The title can be confusing, but it merely refers to the fact that the text is in German. It is based on text from the bible of Luther and not the Latin texts usually used in the requiem. Brahms’s use of the vernacular, as well as the works’ themes of human loss and comfort, partially account for why this piece was so well received in Brahms’s own lifetime. It is less a prayer for the dead and more a song of comfort, encouragement, and ultimately triumph for those who would grieve.

To use a musical metaphor, all the stops have been pulled in the performance of Ein deutsches Requiem at Williams. The sixty-five voice all-student Concert Choir is bolstered by acclaimed soloists Keith Kibler and Kerry Ryer-Parke along with a full orchestra. Thompson Memorial Chapel, located right on Route 2 in Williamstown, is a well-known venue for choral music. Its resonant acoustics and meditative architecture are the perfect setting to experience the power of this seminal work.

For those who mourn and for all who wish to commune with Brahms’ contemplation of the cycle of life, and death, Ein deutsches Requiem is a unique meditation on the meaning of human existence. Even those unfamiliar with the minutae of classical music or the cult of Brahms will be won over by the sheer emotional force that has made this ultimately uplifting piece a classic for over 140 years.

Williams College has long had a fine tradition of music performance in its choral ensembles. Brad Wells, Director of Vocal Activities, has helped that tradition flourish. The choral program has much to offer students interested in singing, with a number of performances throughout the year, a wide range of repertoire, recordings and tours.