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Basilica choirs to perform Lenten concert

| Friday, March 2, 2018

To celebrate the Lenten season, the Notre Dame Basilica choirs will host a concert Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The choirs will perform two pieces by French composer Gabriel Faure — “Requiem” and “Cantique de Jean Racine” — as well as an opening and closing hymn.

Four choirs — the Liturgical Choir, the Women’s Liturgical Choir, the Folk Choir and the Basilica Schola — will perform. Additionally, a professional orchestra will provide instrumental accompaniment.

Women’s Liturgical Choir director and organist Patrick Kronner will conduct the choirs for the performance of “Requiem.”

Although the music will be presented in concert form, it was originally composed to accompany liturgical prayer, Kronner said.

“It’s totally functional music that you would sing at Mass,” he said.

Kronner said Faure composed his work specifically for the repose of the dead and centers on themes such as consolation and deliverance.

Senior Rosemary Pfaff, a vocalist in the Folk Choir, said several distinct movements comprise “Requiem,” which concludes with a piece entitled “In Paradisum.”

“‘In Paradisum’ is just lovely,” she said. “It has ethereal beauty that seems really appropriate for a requiem.”

J.J. Wright, director of the Folk Choir, will conduct “Cantique de Jean Racine,” Kronner said. Faure composed the piece for a work by French poet Jean Racine, “Word, one with the highest.” It explores a wide variety of Lenten themes such as God’s mercy and the need for sinners to repent, Kronner added.

To match a broad range of themes, the piece features several tonal changes, Kronner said, including a tranquil opening, a powerful development section and a peaceful resolution.

“It’s a masterpiece in miniature,” he said. “It’s perfectly balanced. The way it fits together structurally, the way he paints the text — it’s just really incredible.”

Sophomore Theresa Rice, a member of the Women’s Liturgical Choir, said she admires “Requiem” for its striking dynamic shifts and how it pairs “large, exciting choral sections” with “softer moments.”

Assistant director of the Liturgical Choir Jonathan Hehn said in an email that the concert directors spent weeks planning the performance before the choirs began rehearsals.

“Each of us, to varying degrees, has helped coordinate various aspects of the logistics, and those who are conducting portions of the concert itself have done hours of score study in order to be prepared to run rehearsals,” he said.

An added challenge, Hehn said, was making time for the choirs to practice.

“I’ve observed that the logistics in coordinating a concert in a Basilica with a very busy liturgical schedule can be difficult,” he said. “The choir members, we know, also have busy lives, so a thanks is owed to them for giving of their time so generously during this whole process.”

Pfaff said she looks forward to the concert because she views it as a way to serve others.

“Ministry through music is a wonderful thing to be a part of,” she said. “It’s a beautiful opportunity to be a part of Notre Dame’s choral tradition during a special liturgical time.”

Kronner said he believes listener engagement is key to fully experiencing a concert.

“You can just kind of be immersed in it and let the sound surround you,” he said. “[Or] you can sit there with the text just as you would listen to a homily. You can let it challenge you.”

Rice said she hopes guests will find the concert to be a chance for introspection.

“Music helps me gain a lot of peace, but also gives me an opportunity to lose myself,” she said. “I hope [the audience] has a chance to relax into the music and just let it speak to them.”

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