St. Olaf College | News

MPR to feature ‘War Requiem’ performance

The St. Olaf Orchestra is one of four ensembles that will collaborate on an April 21 performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem that will later be featured on Minnesota Public Radio.

An April 21 performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem at St. Olaf College will be featured on Minnesota Public Radio tonight.

The concert involved the collaboration of four ensembles — the St. Olaf Orchestra, St. Olaf Chapel Choir, Magnum Chorum, and Anima from the Northfield Youth Choirs — in addition to a chamber orchestra and three soloists, all members of the St. Olaf faculty. The concert, which was also streamed live and archived online, will be broadcast by Minnesota Public Radio (99.5 KSJN) April 30 at 8 p.m.

Britten composed War Requiem, largely considered one of the greatest works of the 20th century, in 1962 to commemorate the reconsecration of England’s Coventry Cathedral. Minnesota Public Radio will rebroadcast St. Olaf College’s performance of the piece on November 14, which marks the anniversary of the World War II bombing that destroyed the cathedral.

War Requiem really gets at the heart of the horrors of war,” says Professor of Music and St. Olaf Orchestra Conductor Steven Amundson. “And since so much of our world sadly seems destined to be at war, this piece always feels timely.”

By juxtaposing the original Latin Mass for the Dead with the poignant poetry of war veteran Wilfred Owen, War Requiem illustrates the terrors of combat alongside the hope that the dead will rest in peace. In the opening of the second movement, Dies Irae (Day of Wrath), for example, bugle from the battlefield transforms into the sounds of the last trumpet from the Book of Revelations.

“Every movement of War Requiem is filled with moments like these,” says Associate Professor of Music and Chapel Choir Conductor Christopher Aspaas ‘95, who will serve as primary conductor of the piece. “I know of no other work that reaches the same extremes of expression, offering drama on the grandest scale while sharing moments of immeasurable intimacy and human emotion.”