Concert at the Cathedral: ASO teams with voices, organist to bring sacred music to audience

Music featuring a French composer’s requiem will fill the sacred space at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on Saturday.

The “Sacred Music in Sacred Space” concert emphasizes “sacred music by 20th-century composers,” and will feature the late French composer Maurice Durufle and his 1947 requiem, Altoona Symphony Orchestra Maestra Teresa Cheung said.

The Cathedral Choir, the State College Choral Society, organist Nicholas Will of Crafton and mezzo soprano Raquel Winnica Young of Pittsburgh will perform with the orchestra.

“It will be a concert with great strength, beauty and comfort,” Cheung said. “The ambiance of the Cathedral will no question highlight the essence of these pieces, a couple of them are to be performed on the historic Steinmeyer organ at the Cathedral.”

The first half of the concert will include a performance of “The Prayer of St. Gregory,” and the second half of the concert will feature the Durufle Requiem.

Will, who performed with the ASO for the “Music of Enlightment” concert in spring 2011, said the requiem is “rich” and “poignant” with a “mystical element.”

For more than 500 years, “the text of the requiem mass has inspired composers to set it to music,” he said.

“The requiem could be especially poignant for those who have recently lost a loved one,” he said. “For many, it brings a sense of peace.”

Mezzo Soprano Winnica Young will sing with the Altoona orchestra for the first time at the concert.

“I am very excited about it; I deeply admire and respect Teresa, and it will be a pleasure to make music with her and the ASO musicians,” she said.

Young’s husband, Lenny, is the principal oboist for the symphony, but will not perform in the upcoming concert.

Young will sing one aria of the requiem, “The Pie Jesu,” which means: “Have Mercy on us Lord Jesus, and give us a peaceful rest.”

Durufle wrote the requiem when his father died, she said.

“This fabulous Cathedral is the perfect venue for this concert, so the audience will be in the right place to give themselves to the music,” she said. “I hope to be able to give my best, communicate and connect with the spirit of the piece.”

The choral society also worked with the ASO on Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana opera performance, said State College Choral Society director Russ Shelley.

“Unlike many other requiems, the Durufle Requiem places full weight on the chorus,” Shelley said.

“With limited solo sections, the chorus carries the beautiful chant melodies throughout the piece.”

The choral society will contribute 100 singers to the performance, he said.

“The Durufle Requiem uses Gregorian chant melodies as a backbone for very lush harmonies,” Shelley said.

Saturday’s performance “presents the full orchestra version which provides suddenly changing aural colors from bursts of brass to long string lines. As a requiem, the drama moves from an opening serenity through fierce judgment and returns to the serenity of final rest. This contrast is perfect subject matter for Durufle’s skillful orchestration and tender handling of the timeless chant melodies.”

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.