Experience the music of John Rutter

Posted on Mar 19, 2018 by

Almost 150 regional musicians will take the stage for the U.S. Venture Masterworks presentation of an evening with John Rutter. The Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra and newVoices choir will present two major works by this prominent composer: The Rutter “Requiem” and his newest composition “The Gift of Life.”

This is the second year of this community-wide collaboration made possible through a generous grant from the U.S. Venture/Schmidt Family Foundation. The annual series was designed to present chorus/orchestral masterworks to the community and includes outreach to regional youth organizations. The concert will be presented Saturday, April 28 at 7:30 pm at the Lawrence University Chapel in Appleton and there will be a pre-concert discussion on the works of Rutter. Tickets are available by visiting www.newvoiceschoir.org.

By Jason Henderson, Executive Director, newVoices

First and foremost, let’s get this out of the way: Yes, the Rutter “Requiem” is a setting of the Roman Catholic requiem Mass, but you need to know that a Requiem has evolved profoundly from the days of Gregorian chanting. Traditionally, a Requiem uses Latin texts to lay the dead to rest and celebrate eternal life.

Whether you acknowledge the religious significance, or look for a pure musical experience, this piece has earned its right as a masterwork. It is no exaggeration that this piece is a modern day choral repertoire standard by which all others have been measured since its full concert debut in 1985.

A Requiem set to music is considered the Mount Everest of many composers today, but it started out as simple unison chants in the early Catholic Mass. Sometime in the 1500’s, it turned into a more polyphonic (multiple voices), a cappella version of the Latin texts. Eventually, the Requiem turned into massive works with full orchestra and choir–which made them pretty hard to squeeze into the traditional Roman Catholic funeral services. There are thousands of composers who have set the traditional Requiem texts to music and today, there is no standard as far as what texts are included when a composer sets this text to music.

Rutter’s Requiem is widely accepted as his best work. Unlike most of his repertoire, he wasn’t commissioned to write the piece. He wrote it for his father who died a year earlier and I think that’s what makes it so unique—it is an intimate expression. He didn’t write the work from the darkness/death aspect that Requiems often focus on, but he wrote it as a gradual drifting to light in reverence of life. One can assume his interpretation and use of the text was a very private and intimate celebration of his Father’s Life–of which his very simple dedication, “in memoriam L. F. R.” exists.

Instead of a grandiose presentation with explosive, and gut-wrenching movements, he managed to weave the texts and melodies almost as a personal conversation–expressing his own experience and observations of life and eventual death. The subject of death could appear dark, but he takes such good care to not portray death as pure nothing, and emptiness, but as an eternal rest and the arrival or welcoming of a final peace.

As you listen to this work and make plans to join us, here are some top reasons why you should experience this masterwork in person:

  • There will be 55 instrumentalists from the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra and 90 singers from newVoices collaborating in this community event. That’s a lot of sound to experience live!
  • The composer, John Rutter, has royal ties. He was commissioned to write a work for the wedding of Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey.
  • This is the first time “The Gift of Life” has been performed in our region with full orchestra and choir.

Tickets to this performance are on sale now and available online at this link. 

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