From the balcony of the majestic Royal Theatre, as Maestra Tania Miller conducts her Victoria Symphony on the stage below, the melodic voices of our Middle School choir above beautifully complement the live orchestral music.
Thirty-two SMUS students lent their voices to last weekend’s two performances of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem”, performed alongside the professional orchestra, soloists and 165 members of the Victoria Choral Society and Vox Humana Chamber Choir.
“They did exceptionally well,” says Middle School choir teacher Duncan Frater. “It’s difficult music – they’re singing in Latin – but they did a terrific job.”
Britten’s “War Requiem” is the product of the 20th-century composer’s convictions as a pacifist, growing up in England between the First and Second World Wars. Britten was commissioned to write a piece to celebrate the consecration of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Coventry, England. The result was a bold 90-minute piece that combines music and poetry (in Latin and English) that explores the ideas of loss and reconciliation.
According to the Victoria Symphony’s program notes, the role of the Middle School choir (originally performed by a boys’ choir) in the piece is to be “more remote, more unworldly. There is a suggestion of angelic voices from on high dispassionately maintaining the ritual of the Mass while more lives are needlessly lost – a disturbing aural image.”
The performance and words sung by our students was a heartfelt reminder of the tragedies of war, leading up to Remembrance Day.
“The SMUS choir was stunning up in the balcony. They sounded like the innocent and untouched souls that Britten intended for them to symbolize,” says Tania, the Victoria Symphony maestra. “They performed beautifully and brought with them dedication and a committed spirit which was wonderful to experience.”
Reflections from students
“It was really cool to perform with the Symphony and the older choirs. It pushed me a bit out of my comfort zone because I got to perform with so many people I’m not used to working with. The toughest thing was I didn’t know what any of the words meant until the day when we saw the subtitles in English. A lot of what we were singing in Latin was sad; it had to do with lost lives and symbolism of war. It deals with some really mature subject matter.” – by Emma, Grade 8
“I liked it all because you’re kind of part of everything and you were part of the whole musical experience for the audience. I know my parents were sitting at the bottom and they said it sounded like we were angels because we were coming from above.” – by Nadine, Grade 7
“It was really good because it was unique. We were the only ones that got to do this. I liked performing with all the musicians; they were really supportive and they said really nice things to us. It was fun.” – by Divyesh, Grade 6
“I thought it was amazing to have this opportunity. I was really thankful and grateful for it because I don’t know a lot of people who get to sing with the Symphony. And it’s not often you get to see the Symphony play and rehearse. That was amazing.” – by Claire, Grade 6
“To sing with the Symphony was really amazing. It was a slightly breathtaking experience, being there, singing with all these musicians and the other choirs. Also I thought it was really neat that they got us kids to sing really dark lyrics. I really liked that we got to see these musicians doing this performance for tons and tons of other people, but then you realize that you’re performing too, you’re not there to watch the Symphony.” – by Max, Grade 7
“One of the best moments in the whole thing was sitting, waiting for the hardest part of the piece that we had to practice lots and lots and lots. And seeing Tania Miller turn around and give us that big cue, it was so awesome. We could see her, she was the size of a little ant, and she was giving us this huge cue, and we had to sing at the right time with the right words in sync with everyone. It was really difficult but nailing it both nights in a row was really awesome.” – by Amalia, Grade 6
See more photos of the Middle School choir rehearsing at the Royal Theatre on the SMUS Photo Gallery.