Members of the Central Oregon Mastersingers are performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City this week.
They are joining with the Eugene Concert Choir and the New England Symphonic Ensemble to perform Brahms Requiem.
“Just 6 to 8 months ago, I was contacted by Diane Rettalack who conducts the Eugene Concert Choir and she let me know that they were going to perform the Requiem in Carnegie Hall,” said Mastersingers Artistic Director and Conductor Christian Clark. “She asked if we would join them so I said ‘absolutely.'”
Retallack calls Brahms Requiem a mature work.
“Every time you do it, it’s even more meaningful. I get teary eyed just thinking of the words because this is not the typical Latin mass,” Retallack said.
The Central Oregon Mastersingers spent months preparing for their performance in Carnegie Hall. Members rehearsed at least 45 hours as a group and many more hours practicing by themselves.
“The journey has been very interesting because we started learning the Brahms Requiem in order to perform in March 2020 and we were right down to our last rehearsals when, of course, everything was cancelled,” said Gina Rosbrook, a member of the Mastersingers.
“We then had the opportunity to sing it again but this time we had to learn German. Our first attempt at learning it was in English so, when we were invited by the Eugene Concert Choir to sing it with them in Carnegie Hall, it was already determined it would be in German so we started over again.”
Johannes Brahms composed the Requiem to comfort those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. It is meant to be reflective and uplifting. That’s particularly appropriate after two years of struggle and loss during the pandemic.
“It begins ‘blessed are those that mourn.’ So, it’s actually for the living,” said Retallack. “There is no day of wrath, day of judgement. Everybody is going to end up in the fiery pit. We don’t have that in the requiem. It’s very soothing, gentle and comforting for the living but by the end, you have a reprise of the same type of music but now it’s saying blessed are those who die.”
“I’m very energized by it,” said Mastersingers member Valerie Pitts. “I am a music major from way back. I was a music teacher. This is something I’ve been waiting to do for a long time. To be able to go with a group like Central Oregon Mastersingers, joining the Eugene Ensemble as well, is just going to be fantastic. We are very excited.”
The Central Oregon Mastersingers follow in the footsteps of composers and performers the likes of Tchaikovsky, George Gershwin, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Judy Garland, and The Beatles.
“It’s the pinnacle of performance halls in the United States and in the world. It’s a place that everyone aspires to sing or play or perform in that hall. It feels like a mountaintop experience,” said Clark.
“I have a child who did this with her high school choir. So, she got to sing in Carnegie Hall before I did. It’s been a life dream of mine but, more importantly, it’s about the group and what we stand for and doing it together,” said Pitts.
Retallack is conducting the Carnegie Hall performance.
“I had planned on dedicating the performance to those that we lost to COVID-19. Since then, what have we had? The war in Ukraine. School shootings and any number of other catasrophes,” Retallack said. “In our community we had the loss of a young woman who committed suicide. Young people are hurting. There were so many things that were ripe for memorial that I decided to not limit it to those we lost to COVID-19.”