In spring 2005, we performed the Duruflé Requiem at St. Joseph the Worker Church. The Requiem is a favorite of mine and my mother’s, who I sang with growing up and whenever I’ve gotten the chance since (we’re on opposite sides of the country.) Singing the Duruflé on Mother’s Day was perfect.
Except that it poured and winds howled. The stained glass windows rattled. Our faithful listeners dripped into church, tucked their umbrellas under the seats, and packed all of the pews at St. Joe’s.
The church’s organ died and Mark Bruce was left to play the beautiful organ solos on piano. He quipped that Duruflé had already written three versions — organ accompaniment, organ and small orchestra, and organ with full orchestra — so this would just be his fourth version.
The chorus stood on our home-made risers, watched for Arlene’s cues, and did what we’d rehearsed. It was a lovely performance, the gentle power of the Duruflé warming somewhat damp and chilly listeners.
What happened at the very end will always be one of my favorite magical music moments — the piano and the sopranos began the exposed, lilting notes of “In Paradisum.” As they sang, the weather changed, the rain stopped, and the sun started to shine through the clouds. As the music began to swell, sun came streaming through the high stained glass, transforming the entire sanctuary. It brought tears and smiles to both singers and audiences. Whatever our beliefs, we knew that somehow, the music had given us a profound blessing.