Learning the notes deep on the basement
I have loved the Verdi Requiem since I was a teenager. I heard it first in a large tent in Teesside as part of the final concert of the then highly successful and large International Eisteddfod. It has been a part of my life at many stages, although to my great regret I never sang the mezzo solo part. It was just too 'big' for my rather more Mozartian tone quality.
It is the most wonderful work. Dramatic, overtly emotional and full of the most glorious Verdian melody. I heard a moving performance of it at English National Opera in a staged version with a young soprano of whom I was very fond, and a great friend of M in Durham. Each time I have heard it it has touched me deeply.
I thought I had heard it in every way possible until I watched the programme on BBC 4 tonight, called 'Remembering the Holocaust - Defiant Requiem'. I urge you all to watch it on BBC iPlayer. It was the story of a performance by Jewish prisoners in the camp near Prague, Terezin. Raphael Schachter was a young pianist and composer in Czechoslovakia before the war who fulfilled his dream and made such a heartfelt and important statement when the 60 singer strong choir performed this work in sheer defiance of the Nazis, to the Nazis.
Starving, cold and broken prisoners collected in a damp basement of the camp and learnt by rote and committed to memory the entire work. One of the singers, now a very elderly lady said so movingly that when in that damp cellar they were ' surrounded by a protective wall of healing'.
I urge you to watch it. The Verdi Requiem should be in every life.
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