Some of the greatest requiems by composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Hector Berlioz and Giuseppe Verdi are filled with heartrending emotion from tragic grief to trembling fear of Judgment Day.
Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, on the other hand, is illuminated by a gentle light. He called it a lullaby of death.
The Summer Singers and Chamber Orchestra of Lee’s Summit conducted by Lynn Swanson will perform Fauré’s gentle masterpiece Saturday, July 25, and Sunday, July 26, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lee’s Summit.
“Fauré wrote the Requiem just a few years after his mother and father died when Fauré was in his 40s,” Swanson said. “I think a lot of people assumed he wrote it for them, but when he was asked why he wrote the Requiem, he said he wrote it for pleasure.”
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Fauré’s Requiem is certainly a pleasure to listen to. It is a hopeful and ethereal vision of death. The Summer Singers of Lee’s Summit will be performing the pared-down chamber orchestra version, which brings out Fauré’s delicate watercolors even more.
“I think people are drawn to Fauré’s impressionistic sound,” Swanson said. “The Impressionist composers wrote to the imagery, to the subject matter. They really tried to paint the picture of the text through the timbre of the orchestra and the voices. Fauré certainly did that in his Requiem. Even though it’s a Mass, it’s very romantic.”
Soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson and baritone Joshua Lawlor will be the soloists for the Requiem. Also on the program are Fauré’s “Cantique de Jean Racine,” the motet “Ubi Caritas” by Maurice Duruflé and the gorgeous Sanctus movement from the “St. Cecilia” Mass by Charles Gounod.
This is the second year for the Summer Singers of Lee’s Summit. It’s the latest addition to William Baker’s various Festival Singers ensembles, like the Summer Singers of Kansas City and the original Summer Singers of Atlanta, which is now in its 26th year. According to Swanson, the Lee’s Summit community has enthusiastically embraced her ensemble.
“I think they’re the most enthusiastic Summer Singers chorus I’ve ever been in front of,” she said. “Lee’s Summit is very supportive of the arts and new ventures and collaborations. The churches and schools are getting involved along with educators, the City Council and the mayor. They’re all helping promote this event. You can feel the support when you walk into a room for rehearsal.”
Swanson, like Baker, is a native of Atlanta, where she still resides, but she’s spending more and more time in Kansas City. When she isn’t leading her own Lynn Swanson Festival Singers in Atlanta, she’s conducting the Summer Singers of Lee’s Summit and is also director of the Institute for Healthy Singing, an offshoot of the Festival Singers, which is dedicated to inculcating good technique in singers of all ages.
“I and my staff — Jamea Sale, Christine Freeman and Melissa Shallberg — all have the same degree in choral pedagogy from the University of Kansas,” Swanson said. “We all have private studios, but the focus is to do workshops and seminars for vocal health and hygiene for singers and anyone who talks all day, educators, teachers, conductors, radio announcers. For example, the North Kansas City public school system invited us to teach children how to sing properly. It’s a science-based approach to art.”
Swanson says that the Institute for Healthy Singing takes a holistic approach to singing. For example, singing entails listening, which is why the institute emphasizes the importance of protecting your hearing.
“Healthy singing is being a healthy person,” Baker said. “We will teach you to use your physical resources, your body, in a healthy and productive manner. Many vocal professionals, singers and conductors don’t have this training. You must protect the voice as it’s developing in childhood, and then you can maximize and extend the life of your voice into your older years. That’s our mission.”
To find out more about the Healthy Singing Institute, contact Swanson through FestivalSingers.org.
7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. July 26 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 416 S.E. Grand Ave., Lee’s Summit. $5-$20. www.festivalsingers.org.