I have the privilege to accompany my 14 year old niece Karolyn to the Czech Republic this summer with this amazing group, also known as the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony Chorus. I am looking forward to listening and learning tomorrow night at the Grand Rapids Symphony performance. I am so thankful Karolyn has this opportunity to use her amazing gift of music, combined with a community of people with a shared interest, to travel the world and commemorate a very tragic historical event.
I am thankful tonight for family who love adventure, music that communicates what words often can not, and opportunities that invite many people to be shaped in ways that will likely never be forgotten!
The Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus marks fifty years with a heartbreaking Holocaust oratorio
Published: Monday, November 12, 2012, 9:14 AM
On November 16 and 17, the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus will kick off its fiftieth season with “We Remember,” a peerless, two-night performance pairing Mendelssohn’s Symphony no. 5,Reformation, with the work of renowned contemporary composer Stephen Paulus. Both works embody a vast array of complex, conflicting emotions, moving attentive listeners through intense fear, hope, heart-wrenching despair, and beauty.
Mendelssohn’s famous Reformationsymphony is amongst his earliest works and recalls one of the most momentous events of the Protestant Reformation: the Augsburg Confession, a confession of faith defining what it meant to be Lutheran. Mendelssohn wrote the difficult piece in 1830 for the tercentennial Augsburg celebration in Berlin, but, due to illness, it was delayed beyond the festivities and, therefore, not performed until 1832 after being turned down by Habeneck’s orchestra in Paris and revised. Its short run ended in 1838 when Mendelssohn shelved the piece as “juvenilia.” Youthful, yes; immature, no. The fourth movement includes Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which is a paraphrasing of Psalm 46, which begins: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” This sweeping, orchestral composition is sure to transport you back, some 480 years, to a volatile time of shifting ideas, religious persecution, and fearless leaders, all with lasting implications.
Of pivotal importance is the program’s major work, Paulus’s To Be Certain of the Dawn. It serves not only as a gripping Holocaust memorial oratorio but also as an act of good interfaith on the part of the Basilica of St. Mary toward the Temple Israel, both in Minneapolis, according to the Minneapolis Orchestra’s notes from its recording of the piece and CD release in 2009. Commissioned by the Basilica in 2005, the piece commemorates both the sixtieth anniversary of the release of Nazi death camp captives and the fortieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate (In our Age), an edict by the Second Vatican Council under Pope Paul VI to absolve the Jewish people from indiscriminate charges of Christ’s crucifixion. The enormous performance includes soloists, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Symphony Chorus, and the Youth Chorus all in mellifluous harmony. During the performance, World War II images will be shown in remembrance of the one and a half million Jewish children murdered in the Nazi camps.
Nowhere this fall will you be more deeply shaken by the human propensity for evil or uplifted by the strength of the human spirit to overcome it. These two masterful works symbolize progression, conservatism, remembrance, and redemption. They are about division and unity, atrocity and love, hurt and healing. I can think of no better way to celebrate fifty years of our great city performing great music, past and present.
Music Director David Lockington leads the Grand Rapids Symphony, with the Symphony Chorus and Youth Chorus, November 16 and 17 at DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, for “We Remember.” Tickets start at $18. For more information, visit www.grsymphony.org