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Good Friday Worship, March 30, 7:00pm | Sanctuary

Led by AHCC’s Director of Music & Arts, Jack Pott, and Organist Susan Carroll, the Sanctuary Choir will present Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, Op. 9. The nine movements will be spread out within the worship service, and interspersed with Gospel readings of the Seven Last Words From The Cross.

Begun in 1942 and completed in 1947, Duruflé dedicated his Requiem to the memory of his father. The work is for SATB choir, with mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists. Duruflé scored three different accompaniments of this work: 1) the original version for large orchestra, 2) a version for solo organ accompaniment, and 3) a chamber orchestra version (three trumpets, timpani, harp, strings, and a major organ part). It is the second version that we will be doing.

Everyone who has come to love Duruflé’s music has, at one point or another, uttered the phrase, “Oh, I wish he had written more!” The French composer was highly critical of his own compositions, and published only 13 of his works, and often continued to edit and change pieces after publication. Can you think of any other major composer who has published only thirteen works? Of course, it is because the quality of each of the pieces is so good that his place in music history is assured. According to his wife, the reason he wrote so few works was a combination of his exceptionally self-critical personality, and his jobs which kept him very, very busy. When they played joint organ recitals, she would play all the virtuoso pieces because he was too busy to practice. One wonders also if he was discouraged to continue composing since his style would be viewed progressively as “conservative.” For as the decades passed by and a multitude of more modern musical styles came and went, Duruflé continued to compose true to his own personal style, which just happened to be more representative of the first decades of the century than the middle and later ones. It is wonderful to see in his music, signs of the many musical influences of his formative years. He absorbed the styles of his organ teachers, Tournemire and Vierne, the elegant, Classical French school represented by Gabriel Fauré, the Impressionist school of Debussy, Ravel and others, and the world of the Church – the physical, spiritual, and emotional ambiance of the buildings and the liturgies, and music therein, the polyphonic Renaissance choral repertory, and, above all, the Gregorian chants. All these wonderful influences came together to form the musical style of Maurice Duruflé.

The Requiem began as an organ suite based on the plainchants for the Missa Pro Defunctis (Mass for the Dead.) Through the encouragement of Marcel Dupré and Durand publishers, he transformed it into his Requiem. His inclusion of Pie Jesu, Libera me, and In Paradisum, from the burial service, (mirroring Fauré), makes the composition more meditative than some other settings.

Our own history at AHCC with this piece is certainly of historical note. It was part of the dedication program for the new Aeolian-Skinner organ in January 1962, and recorded on LP six months later by the Asylum Hill Oratorio Choir, led by AHCC Organist and Choirmaster Al Russell. Since the organ-only version had only been published in 1961, by all accounts, the January 1962 performance was surely the Hartford premiere, and perhaps even the Connecticut premiere. The Oratorio Choir then performed it the next year at Trinity Church in Boston, and then in New York City, with the composer conducting, and his wife, Madame Duruflé, at the organ. The next performance in our sanctuary occurred in April 1978, under the direction of AHCC Organist and Minister of Music, Richard Einsel. In February 2004, the AHCC Choir joined forces with CONCORA, the Cathedral of St. Joseph Choir, and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra in a standing-room only performance directed by Richard Coffey at the Cathedral. Later that spring, the AHCC Choir, led by Minister of Music and Arts, Steve Mitchell, with Charles Miller at the organ, presented the organ and chamber orchestra version for Palm Sunday.

 Make plans now to attend this moving and meaningful worship service as we journey together through Holy Week to the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday.