Community Invited to Join W&J Choir for Mozart’s Requiem

Created: April 10, 2014
Last Updated: January 17, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Nov. 25, 2013)—For the third time in her tenure at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J), Susan Medley will direct Mozart’s Requiem, and as in past years the W&J community is invited to join the W&J Choir to perform what Medley called a “highly emotional, fiery and challenging piece of music.”

The performance, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for April 25 at 8 p.m. at the Church of the Covenant on Beau Street in Washington, Pa.

“I want this to be open for everyone to experience,” she said. “I remember the first time I sang it when I was in college and you really are never quite the same after you sing it.”

This is the only piece Medley, an associate professor of music at W&J, chooses to direct frequently—every four years, she said, so that every generation of W&J students has the opportunity to sing it. The W&J Choir, including faculty and staff members, performed Mozart’s Requiem in 2006 and 2010.

The choir will be accompanied by a professional orchestra of current and retired members of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and other organizations. Two of four hired soloists, soprano Katy Williams and tenor Jeffrey Blake Johnson, are W&J professors.

Medley said she keeps cycling back to this piece because she finds it so powerful. The work’s emotion comes from its beautiful composition, but also from the life and experience of the composer, she said.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was commissioned to compose the Requiem—a musical praise for the dead—but he had not finished it when he died in 1791 at age 35.

Medley said it’s recognized that as Mozart wrote the piece, he began to feel that he was composing the requiem for himself. When he died, one of his students completed the work from notes he left behind.

“Ironically, this requiem was the last thing he ever wrote,” Medley said. “You can hear him struggling with [his personal situation] in the music. To have that vision at such a young age is really something. It’s very moving and very powerful, and it’s a piece that just really touches people in a way not a lot of other works can.”

Listeners can tell a lot about a composer’s philosophy on death by how they set the dies irae movement—the day of judgment—Medley said. Mozart’s Requiem is fiery and intense, unlike Faure’s Requiem, which is peaceful.

“I want [audience members] to feel like they have just experienced a really special performance,” Medley said. “Mozart’s Requiem isn’t something that you leave joyfully. It’s going to be very emotional and I hope they leave feeling that it was a really moving piece of music.”

Rehearsals begin in February and will be held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11:45 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. in Olin 211. Faculty and staff interested in participating should contact Medley at smedley@washjeff.edu.

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