Corbin Treacy reacts to the War Requiem Experience

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Corbin with his host family when staying in the Quad Cities.

To sing the Britten War Requiem in 2012, fifty years after its debut in 1962 and in the eleventh year of various US wars abroad, was for me a sober reminder of the persistent futility of war. Wilfred Owen described in his poems the folly of violence and lives squandered in battle, words that Europe and the world needed still to hear in Coventry some forty five years after the poems were first written and which need to be heard just as desperately today as sabers continue to rattle. To live in Owen's words and Britten's music, to reanimate their message of peace and nonviolence was for me a singular honor not soon to be forgotten.

--Corbin Treacy, Ph.D. candidate in French studies, University Singers tenor

Annette Haas reacts to the Britten War Requiem experience

For me it was a great experience to participate in this huge project. Not only as a member of the choir, but I also felt as if I was somehow the representative of my own country, The Netherlands, where both WWI and WWII had big impact. WWII was for Holland worse and more intense than WWI, but in both wars there were losses.

I thought that the opportunity to work with the Germans was a great one. It is more important to think about Germany as one of the world countries than as the country who was responsible for so many losses. Forgive but not forget and learn from history so we don't make the same mistakes.

I liked to go on tour.... It felt great and to work with all these different choirs was also a great experience. It was not always good for my patience because we had to go over things which we as university singers already did the week before. It gave me an idea how it is like to be on tour with an ensemble, and for me I like it!!

--Annette Haas, vocal performance

Anna Degraff Reacts to her experience with the War Requiem

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Anna Degraff and Sarah Yoder on the steps to the School of Music in Germany.

I will never forget how I felt after 9/11, when I visited Ground Zero. The area was fenced off, but the devastation was still overwhelmingly present. There were candles lit, and fresh flowers around the perimeter. There were signs posted by those who were still searching for loved ones. That is the closest I've ever come to war, and it left me with tears in my eyes and a knot in my stomach that didn't go away for days.

Over a decade later, working on the Britten project, and spending this last week in Germany brought my mind back to the kind of loss that is suffered when battles are waged. In preparing the War Requiem, we had several class presentations and discussions about the circumstances surrounding WWI and on the Wilfred Owen poetry used in the work. It struck me that the sort of anonymity that came from the advent of long-rage weaponry bred the disconnect we feel today. Few of us have lost loved ones, and even fewer have seen battle, so we don't have to come face-to-face with pain, loss and death.

Sitting onstage during our final rehearsal in Detmold, I was now familiar enough with the piece that I really began to lose myself in the meaning of the work. The chorus had just finished singing the Libera me (Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death...), and the tenor began a solo section based on Owen's poetry that depicted a soldier wandering in a dreamy post-battle underworld. There he encountered "encumbered sleepers...too fast in thought or death to be bestirred." One rose up, and after lamenting the loss of his life and hope, told the soldier, "I am the enemy you killed, my friend."

There I was sitting next to people I had never met before, but our ancestors fought on opposing sides of two World Wars. I looked around at the faces of those surrounding me, and felt comforted that we could share the stage for such a profound work, and together make a musical protest against war and death. As we stood for the final chorus, Into Paradise may the Angels lead thee...may thou have eternal rest, I was filled with hope that works like this will lead us all to the kind of peace and brotherhood we desire.

--Anna Degraff, second year doctoral candidate, vocal performance

Pre-Concert reflection in the Quad Cities

Iowa Success onto Illinois

Last night was a great success with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Quad City Vocal Arts, Augustana College Choir, as well as the U of M singers, Detmolders, Minnesota Boy's Choir, and Macallester Concert Choir at the Adler Theater. We played to a nearly sold out house and afterwards had a lovely post concert event at the Black Hawk Hotel in downtown Davenport, Iowa. We are looking forward to a 2:30 performance today at Augustana's Centennial Hall and then we load buses back to the Twin Cities and bid our German friends a final auf wiedersehen.

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Bravi!

What a successful night at Ted Mann Concert Hall with our performance to a sold out crowd of the Britten War Requiem! It was amazing to connect with donors, performers, conductors, and other students from the U.S. and abroad on such a unifying work of peace. We are currently loading the buses to drive to the Quad Cities for performances in Davenport, IA on Saturday night and Rockford, IL on Sunday afternoon. We feel fortunate to be able to perform this work again!

Today's the Day!

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We are so excited to present the Britten War Requiem today! We've had several nights of intense rehearsal and what we've been working on sounds amazing! The concert will begin with a semi-lecture to talk through this amazingly intricate piece and after a short intermission, the War Requiem will begin.

I personally have found it incredibly touching to be performing this piece both on German and American soil with both German and Americans. I can't help but shiver when baritone, Phillip Zawisza, sings, "I am the enemy you killed my friend..." Here I am sitting next to a German student from Detmold, Felix, who would be considered an enemy of America only sixty some years ago and yet, I consider him my new friend. I hope you all get to experience with us this incredibly moving piece whether today in Minneapolis or Saturday and Sunday in the Quad Cities.

-Zachary Colby, Master's in Vocal Performance

Conductor Mark Russell Smith Interviewed on Classical Minnesota Public Radio

Listen to the School of Music's artistic director of orchestral studies Mark Russell Smith on Classical Minnesota Public Radio with host John Birge on Britten's War Requiem and the School of Music's Britten Peace Project.

Then read about the Britten War Requiem concert on the Minneapolis Star Tribune's "Big Gigs for week of 2/24."

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U of M news!

Here's a great article about our project on the U of M news website.

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Here we go!

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The students from Detmold are here in Minneapolis and we are cooking on the Britten War Requiem. Last night the students in the choir got together with the University of Minnesota University Singers, Kantorei, and the Macalester Concert Choir got together and rehearsed through the piece. Today student conductors and singers got together and read through some American composers' pieces. Tonight will begin one of three rehearsals with the University of Minnesota Orchestra and Detmold Hochschule chamber orchestra putting the piece together! I hope you all are excited as we are to engage with this amazing work!