Sunday, December 17, 2017

Britten’s War Requiem honours those who suffered in battles

October 29, 2014 by Andrea Valentine-Lewis, contributing writer

Over 150 voices will ring out in the Royal Theatre on November 8 when Britten’s War Requiem, an emotional orchestral performance of tragedy and remembrance, takes place in Victoria. The concert will include the talents of the Victoria Symphony, as well as 165 choral voices from the Vox Humana Choir, Victoria Choral Society, and St. Michael’s Children’s Choir.

What makes 2014 a good year to debut this remarkable piece of music is that it marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. It’s also the year former Victoria Symphony composer Hugh Davidson passed away.

Brian Wismath of the Vox Humana Choir, who will be lending their voices to Britten’s War Requiem (photo provided).

“Davidson was a strong advocate for the arts, a composer, and an influential member of the Victoria Symphony,” says Brian Wismath, choral director for Vox Humana Choir.

Last year was also significant to this performance, as it would have marked the 100th birthday of composer Benjamin Britten, who passed away in 1976. Britten was born in Suffolk, England and became one of the country’s most influential composers of the 20th century. During his prime years, Britten wrote 14 operas, including pieces for Sadler’s Wells in Covent Garden. His War Requiem premiered in 1962, after it was commissioned four years earlier for the consecration of the Coventry Cathedral.

The requiem also features the poetry of famous war poet Wilfred Owen and was named the greatest masterpiece of the 20th century by music sovereign Shostakovich.

The vocalists featured in the piece include soprano Joni Henson from Toronto, baritone Phillip Addis from Port Colborne, Ontario, and local tenor Benjamin Butterfield. All three soloists have extensive careers in Canada.

“Mr. Butterfield is a spectacle often seen on stage in Victoria with both the Pacific Opera and the Victoria Symphony,” says Wismath.

Meanwhile, Victoria Symphony’s music director Tania Miller is celebrating her 11th season and will be the conductor for the performance of Britten’s War Requiem.

The word “requiem” refers to a mass for the rest of the souls of the dead, and this production will honour through orchestral and choral music those who suffered in WWI and WWII, says Wismath.

“The piece starts off in a C and F sharp, which is an interval tri-tone and represents the interval of the devil,” explains Wismath. “This tone should conjure up feelings of great tension that itches to be resolved.”

Britten’s War Requiem
Saturday, November 8
$30 and up, Royal Theatre

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