I love the Cantique de Jean Racine by Gabriel Fauré, Op. 11. In French, of course. The problem singing it that it’s so beautiful that I have to fight back breaking into tears.
“The text, ‘Verbe égal au Très-Haut’ (‘Word, one with the Highest’), is a French paraphrase by Jean Racine of a Latin hymn… The nineteen-year-old composer set the text in 1864–65 for a composition competition at the École Niedermeyer de Paris, and it won him the first prize.
“The work was first performed the following year on 4 August 1866 in a version with an accompaniment of strings and organ.”
In my church, the members may ask the choir if it would sing at a funeral. This was the case in mid-September. The member’s father had died, in his 90s. Although the now-deceased had an ambivalence about religion and God, he specifically requested that his service be held in his son’s church.
The music staff had offered five suggestions of appropriate pieces in the choral repertoire. Jean Racine was one. Another one, which was also selected, was the final movement, In Paradisum, from Fauré’s Requiem in D minor, Op. 48, composed between 1887 and 1890. Jean Racine is similar in style to the Requiem, and “the two works are often performed together.” I’ve sung the entire Fauré Requiem at least twice.
I wonder if one of the other pieces recommended, but not chosen, for the service came from a piece from Ein Deutsches Requiem by Brahms. The Fauré Requiem resembles it in structure, “although Fauré set Latin liturgical texts to music, whereas Brahms chose German Bible quotations.”
The fourth Brahms movement, How lovely is thy dwelling place, in English, is a funeral standard. One of my friends from my former church I know has specifically requested it for his service. If invited, I would surely sing it, hopefully, years from now.
Several boats yanked free by an ice logjam on the Hudson River closed several bridges.
SUNDAY: Almost every church in the area was closed, with heavy snow overnight. It was changing over to sleet and freezing rain around 7 a.m., just as I began shoveling for the first time.
Our church, however, was open. At the 8:30 service, the two pastors, their elder daughter, the tenor soloist, the organist and the couple who ushered were present. My wife and I took the bus to church because getting the car out of the parking space was impractical in the time frame.
At the 9:30 choir rehearsal, there were but nine of us and the director, plus the organist. The choir director was impressed that we had that many, and we carried on, with a total of 26 at that service.
My wife and I with our friend Sue went to lunch at Mamoun Restaurant that 1) was open, 2) has very good Mediterranean food, and 3) is only a couple blocks from my church. We thought Sue had been attending the church longer than we had,, but it turned out it was that we all started attending the same year, 2000.
The Kite friends and family were out in force, and it was a great event with the church 3/4 full on a lousy day, weatherwise. In-laws, kids, grandkids and old friends all paying tribute. Among other things, we heard how Charlie loved boating.
After the reception, my wife and I went home, and after a change in footwear, started digging out her car around 6:30 p.m. We were tired, but we knew snow emergency called for Monday night, plus the forecast of plummeting temperatures meant that we did it then, it would be too difficult the next day.
MONDAY: An Arctic blast. as it was a federal holiday, I didn’t have to go anywhere, and except removing the snow that the city plows applied in blocking in the car, I never left the house. My daughter’s play rehearsal was wisely canceled.
TUESDAY: Library Foundation meeting, then work. Moderating temperatures.
THURSDAY: Because it was exam week, and my daughter was home alone most of the week, I took the day off, and in the afternoon, went to the movies. It was raining all day, but the temperature began sinking. I took the bus to church.
As I was getting off the bus at Washington and Lark in Albany, some guy sitting in a seat to my right hit me in the arm. It didn’t especially hurt, but I stopped and said to him, “What did you that for?”
The burly white male maybe half my age said: “Just keep going.” I repeated my query. “I’m crazy. You know. I could kill you if I wanted to.”
“No doubt that’s true. But why are you being such an @$$4013?” (I had decided that showing fear to this dude was not in my self-interest.)
I tried to retreat to the rear entrance, but he blocked that. I went out the front entrance, as he continued to yammer something. I gave a WTH look at the driver and got off. The guy did not follow, fortunately.
Taking the bus home after rehearsal, the problem was black ice, especially stepping from the roadway to the sidewalk. I’m shocked that I did not fall.
FRIDAY: More black ice on the way to the 11 a.m. funeral of Bob Lamar. The choir must have numbered over 30, including a few folks from other FOCUS churches. we sang How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place from the Brahms requiem, in English. I’ve it so often, I pretty much know it by heart.
A full house for the service, despite some roadway chaos in the area. Several boats yanked free by an ice logjam on the Hudson River closed several bridges.
Among the tributes was one by the former bishop of the Albany diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, Family, friends and former colleagues spoke, and golf was a repeated theme.
At the reception, I saw my old racquetball competitor, Ward Greer, formerly the head of the Albany United Methodist Society. I was talking to Ken Screven, a retired local news legend when one of the choir members said he has a voice like a Stradivarius, which is true.
I was really touched to note that my blog post about Bob Lamar was included alongside family photos. One of my wife’s colleagues expressed surprise that she would take off from work for the funeral of someone not a family member. Bob was a huge part of our church family for a lot of years.
Albert Wood, a member of my church choir, and a March Pisces, died on Ash Wednesday.
Nothing gets me in the Lenten mood like a bunch of Requiems (Requia?). I have sung several of them over the years. One I haven’t sung is Brahms’ A German Requiem, though I do have a recording of it. However, I have sung the 4th movement, in English, and it is known as How Lovely is thy dwelling place.
From the Wikipedia: A German Requiem, To Words of the Holy Scriptures, Op. 45 (German: Ein deutsches Requiem, nach Worten der heiligen Schrift) by Johannes Brahms, is a large-scale work for chorus, orchestra, and a soprano and a baritone soloist, composed between 1865 and 1868. It comprises seven movements, which together last 65 to 80 minutes, making this work Brahms’s longest composition.
A German Requiem is sacred but non-liturgical, and unlike a long tradition of the Latin Requiem, A German Requiem, as its title states, is a Requiem in the German language.
It is a standard for a number of choirs. I know of at least a couple of people who would love it to be performed at their funerals, and it is on my list of pieces to be considered for that purpose.
A sad note: Albert Wood, a member of my church choir as well as other choral groups, and a March Pisces, died on Ash Wednesday. Stole this picture from someone’s Facebook page. On his LinkedIn page, a fellow choir member had written: “An incredibly talented, energetic and ethical individual, with considerable insight into the human and corporate condition.” Among other things, he was a very talented pianist.