I was familiar with the title Verdi’s Requiem, but I didn’t have any idea what it was; I hadn’t ever heard it, and I’d never read anything about it. As luck would have it, the Utah Symphony had Verdi’s Requiem on their 2010 program and it became a must-attend event for me!
I sat at Abravanel Hall, leafed through the program, and watched the stage fill with the Utah Symphony musicians and choir members. I read the program notes, occasionally followed the verses, and listened to the glorious singing by the choir and soloists. It was beautiful hearing 100 voices paired with the orchestra. I sat and thought to myself, so THIS is a requiem!
This past weekend, the St. Paul’s Choir of Salt Lake City’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church performed Dvořák’s Requiem. Music Director Charles Black invited me to attend, and while I had just had a whirlwind 48 hours of orchestral events, I couldn’t say no! I was definitely on music overload, but supporting friends, especially friends in the Arts, is a priority for me.
A month prior, I had attended the annual Live for Life Cancer Benefit Concert at St. Paul’s, again invited by Charles Black and Peter Christie. Not having been to St. Paul’s before, I had no idea what this event would be like and I was pleasantly surprised as I entered the small, quaint and cozy chapel area. The pews were filled with event supporters and church members, and it was a night of inspiring music benefiting families currently facing devastating financial burdens due to illness.
Having enjoyed the Live for Life concert at St. Paul’s, I was looking forward to Dvořák’s Requiem. Before the concert, Peter Christie had talked to me about how meaningful this event was to him, as it was not just a concert but a requiem incorporated into an actual Mass. I was at a church service where a requiem was intended to be heard.
The Mass included prayers and readings as well as a reading of names of the departed. Tucked in between these was Dvořák’s Requiem.
The Requiem was performed by approximately 20 musicians, 30 singers and 4 soloists. I recognized musicians from the Utah Symphony and Ballet West’s Utah Chamber Orchestra, and as choir members filed past, I even recognized singers from the University of Utah Lyric Opera Ensemble. I loved seeing so many artists from all around Salt Lake City coming together for this musical performance at St. Paul’s!
Dvořák’s Requiem calls for four soloists – Soprano Dana Rene Killingsworth, Tenor Riley Kyle Soter, Alto (mezzo-soprano) Mary Ann Drescher, and Bass Charles Hamilton, and two of the soloists were particularly memorable for me. I loved the rich and full-bodied sound from Mary Ann Drescher, and I fell completely in love with Riley Kyle Soter’s voice.
Watching and hearing Riley had me entranced and I had goose bumps. With each sound produced, I leaned forward more intently, wanting to hear more. I envisioned him singing glorious tenor roles on stages worldwide, audiences holding their breath, feeling as I did in those brief moments. His voice was moving, and after the Mass was over, many people were commenting on how much they loved his voice too!
Going to the church service and hearing Dvořák’s Requiem was quite special. The chapel was packed and everyone was in great spirits. The choir and musicians performed beautifully, and I never would have expected such a warm concert experience in a venue as small as a church. After the concert, we all gathered to mingle and eat — not only was it a “Requiem Mass” to celebrate and honor the dead, it was a time to celebrate life.
Salt Lake City is a Mecca for experiencing the Arts, and opportunities for rich experiences like this abound. I am often invited to performances at Universities and colleges, churches and halls, and private homes or other small venues, and there just isn’t enough time to attend them all. Many of these events are free of charge, and those that aren’t are typically under $15.00. If I hadn’t been invited by Charles Black and Peter Christie, I probably wouldn’t have gone on my own, but now that I have seen how enriching these smaller Arts events are, I’ll likely start attending more.
St Paul’s has musical performances throughout the year and if you’re looking for an intimate, professional and enriching experience, I’d encourage you to add events at St. Paul’s to your calendar. Perhaps I’ll even see you there!
Photo Credit: Charles Black
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