By Shawn Ryan
Anniston Star Entertainment Writer
Jarrod Lee can be a bit skeptical when handed a new piece of music to learn.
The bass vocalist, a senior at Jacksonville State University, says it's not
skepticism of a piece's artistic value so much as skepticism on whether college
students are capable of handling it.
“As a young musician, looking at the work, I think, 'Oh my goodness, I don't
know if we can do this,' ” Lee says.
That was his reaction a few months ago when he was handed Brahms' German
Requiem, a complex piece integrating about 120 voices and a full orchestra into
an hour-long performance. But, as is usually the case, it only took a few weeks
to get in the groove, Lee says.
“Once you start rehearsing and everyone has a common goal, it gets to be fun
in a way,” he says. “You think, 'I am part of a choir so I need to do my part so
I sound like Brahms wanted the piece to sound.' Finally you think, 'Oh OK, I
getcha.' It becomes an appreciation.”
Hopefully, that appreciation will come across Sunday when the Requiem is
performed at Anniston First United Methodist Church. Except for some
professional string players from Birmingham, everyone taking part in the Requiem
is either a local musician/vocalist or a JSU student, says Patricia Corbin,
director of choral activities at JSU and director of the Requiem.
And there has been plenty of time to learn appreciation for the piece —
rehearsals have been going on since January.
“It's a challenge,” Corbin says. “It's not unsingable, but it's difficult.
There are some complicated polysonics — multi-voice writing — a lot of notes.”
“I'm really not a professional musician, but Brahms is such a wonderful
composer, he always gives you surprises,” says Tom Smith of Oxford, a bass
vocalist in the Calhoun County Civic Chorale, which is part of the Requiem's
singing ensemble. “The rhythm will be syncopated or different from what you
might expect; the chords, the harmony will sometimes be different from what you
While most requiems are odes to the dead, Brahms wrote his piece to comfort
those who have been left behind, which gives it a more uplifting feel. One of
her tasks, Corbin says, is to make sure the singers “understand the message that
the text is saying.”
Making the job easier is that this performance, unlike the original, will be
sung in English, she says. The original is in German.
“I feel like it's a very inspirational piece because of the material it
entails,” Lee says. “It's consoling the heart and soul of those who are still
living, and that's why I feel I can make a connection with this, because we have
all lost something special in our lives.”
“It talks about the majesty of God and how God has prepared a beautiful place
for those in death,” says Smith. “Anyone who has recently lost a loved one will
find this to be a very comforting piece of music.”
About Shawn Ryan
Shawn Ryan is the travel editor and entertainment editor for The Anniston Star.
Brahms' German Requiem
What: A cappella choir, Calhoun County Civic Chorale, orchestra, JSU
music faculty and students
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Anniston First United Methodist Church, 400 Noble St.
How much: Free,
See story at The Anniston Star's website: www.annistonstar.com