Rewarding Requiem honors former Duquesne chancellor
School choirs and alumni singers numbering 150 joined the university’s orchestra to perform a beautiful new Requiem Mass by Joseph Wilcox Jenkins that honors the late Rev. Henry J. McAnulty, a revered former chancellor of the university.
The concert also celebrated the 75th anniversary of what is now the Mary Pappert School of Music and kicked off the school’s capital campaign. The funds will be used in part to acquire 66 new Steinway pianos at the end of the next academic year.
Jenkins pays specific tribute to his old friend in his Requiem. It begins with a bagpiper approaching from the distance and playing an old Irish tune. This reflects McAnulty’s heritage as well as the earliest surviving examples of Requiem music – chant, dating to the 10th century.
Jenkins is a prolific composer – the Requiem is his Opus 198 – and his compositional choices were fascinating and rewarding. The main portion of Jenkins’ music derives much of its beauty from modal harmony, another form of antiquity that English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams revived so effectively in the early part of the last century.
Jenkins’ setting of the text reflects a calm, cheerful faith. The ‘Introit,’ ‘Kyrie’ and ‘Recordare’ are gently and sensuously beautiful. Prominent use of harp and flute reflect a pastoral Irish mood.
By contrast, Jenkins uses music in contemporary style to express suffering, including the violence of the ‘Dies Irae.’ In the ‘Confutatis,’ Jenkins writes rhythmically hip music for When the wicked are confounded, doomed to flames of woe unbounded; then the music makes a beautifully profound contrast for Low I kneel, with heart’s submission.
The penultimate movement is a setting of McAnulty’s beloved old Irish blessing, ‘May the road rise to meet you. …’ Then the bagpiper exits to another plain chant, providing formal symmetry and leaving listeners with a memorable experience to savor.
Brady Allred conducted a mainly admirable performance. The chorus carries the Requiem, and the forces combined for this occasion sang with disciplined beauty. Soprano Carol Ann Allred was the outstanding soloist, with tenor Michael Horanski barely passable in the ‘Confutatis.’
The orchestra was uneven. Strings and winds were admirable, but the French horns and trombones failed to create either the power or the poetry inherent in their notes. Solo flutist Pamela Foster and harpist Rebecca Gard created many exquisite moments. Timpanist Brian Harvey was also outstanding on his prominent part, with a perfectly controlled very fast roll.
The concert opened with Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra No. 1 in C minor. The music works better in its original form for solo oboe and violin, where the solo lines are more distinct and colorful. Maksim Velichkin and Gabriel D’Abruzzo were nevertheless fluent soloists.
Mark Kanny can be reached at (412) 320-7877 or firstname.lastname@example.org .