Advance publicity stated that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was performing in the nation's capital to present the national premiere of a new musical work. The choir reached beyond the nation's borders, however, as it presented "An American Requiem" on Friday and Saturday.
Dignitaries Friday evening in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts included ambassadors of 21 nations, 14 deputy chiefs of missions, two senators and four congressmen. Their presence added an international flavor to a musical work written especially for the purpose of transcending ethnic and cultural barriers.The performances of "An American Requiem" were dedicated to the men and women who sacrificed their lives for freedom, said Michel Sarda, founder of the Art Renaissance Foundation. The organization presented the choir's performances in conjunction with events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Choir director Jerold Ottley turned over conducting duties to James DeMars, a member of the faculty of the Arizona State University School of Music. The choir was accompanied by local professional musicians.
Featured soloists were Simon Estes, a world-renowned bass-baritone who has performed with all the major opera companies; Robert Breault, tenor, assistant professor of voice and director of opera at the University of Utah; Linda Childs, mezzo-soprano, a native of North Carolina who is a doctoral student in music at Arizona State University; and Audrey Luna, soprano, who has opera credits in Europe as well as in the United States.
While there were many empty seats in the Kennedy Center Friday evening, there was an overflow of enthusiasm for the choir and for the new requiem. Added to choir enthusiasts' anticipation of hearing the group perform in the Kennedy Center was the excitement and novelty of a new work. No one seemed disappointed.
"An American Requiem" is organized in four parts, each of which is introduced by a song in English; many of the lyrics are in Latin. The requiem pays homage to the many cultural and ethnic groups that have made positive contributions to America, from Native Americans to immigrants through the years. Texts are drawn from the Old Testament, a poem by Walt Whitman, a Jewish memorial prayer and Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The performance is about 72 minutes long.
The choir will perform its weekly network broadcast, "Music and the Spoken Word, in the Kennedy Center Sunday morning. The program will be broadcast live, carried in Utah on KSL-TV, Channel 5, at 9:30 a.m.
On Monday, the choir will travel to New York City to perform the requiem in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Tuesday and Wednesday. The performance on Tuesday will be carried live on the Faith & Values Channel at 6 p.m. MDT.