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The Mournful Elegance of UoY’s production of Fauré’s ‘Requium’

Hannah Clements reviews this wonderful production by York's Cathedral Singers and Orchestra

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Image Credit: Hannah Clements

I have never felt so moved by classical music as I was last summer: when I was listening to songs in secluded graveyards in France and Belgium, next to the graves of the soldiers that composed them. But The University of York Cathedral Singers and Orchestra’s rendition of Fauré’s ‘Requiem’ certainly came close. There is nothing quite like live music to bring about powerful emotions, in this case, feeling the loss that not only our country, but the world, suffered 100 years ago.

Composed by Fauré after his father’s death in 1886, Requiem is a collection of seven songs exploring the tender emotions death can bring.

For the bargain price of £5, the audience of this performance experienced professional and moving live music, and the satisfaction of knowing that £2 of their ticket was heading straight for the Royal British Legion— the country’s biggest Armed Forces Charity. I come from a family that is passionate about First World War history, and as soon as I saw this event advertised, I jumped at this opportunity to attend. With an appreciation for the arts, a keen interest in war history and a deep care and respect for war memorialisation, I hoped for a rewarding experience, and I was not disappointed.

Despite it being traditional and expected for orchestras and singers to perform in matching all-black attire, the dark clothes acted as a respectful reminder that the songs we were hearing were elegiac. And this combined with the mournful elegance of the music created a performance so beautiful and poignant to remember the fallen soldiers of the First World War.

After reading about the mildness of this music that was designed to comfort mourners, I was surprised by the enormous range of tones and feelings the pieces evoked. From these descriptions, I felt the whole performance would be soft and soothing. Indeed, I would describe the music as a whole to be of gentle nature, yet it was full of contrasts between the high and low, loud and soft, quick and slow and gentle and sudden, that I didn’t expect to be shown in such variety. Sanctus, in particular, was full of unexpected surprises in these contrasts.

Full of harmony and the show was wonderfully presented while the professional atmosphere was admirable. Particular commendation must be given to the solo singers as their strong and angelic voices perfectly complemented the sounds of the orchestra. From stylish grace to suspenseful build-ups and a more uplifting and comforting tune, this performance reflected the wide-ranging emotions of mortality and grief.

In all, this production was a perfect commemoration for the fallen soldiers and was full of talented and dedicated musicians. It was clear that all of the performers were passionate about their individual roles. I would seriously urge anybody at the University of York to take a look at the shows the music society has to offer, as I’m sure each one shares the same passion as this one, while they will all certainly have their own individuality and unique qualities that make them worth seeing.

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