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Mozart Requiem: A Lenten spiritual preparation

Mozart Requiem: A Lenten spiritual preparation

The Musicam Sacram Singers and Ensemble together with the Chamber Orchestra of the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory hold their first of the series of Lenten concerts in The Abbey of Our Lady of Monserrat at San Beda University in Manila, March 31. JOHANN MANGUSSAD

By Frolan Tajale

April 5, 2019

Manila, Philippines

The center pews of the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat were filled with people on the night of March 31 as the Musicam Sacram Singers & Ensemble showcased the last of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s chef-d’oeuvre in mass setting, the Requiem.

The musical masterpiece was a breath of fresh air for many choristers and music audiences that have never been to a Catholic Mass classical concert. Thanks to this young group of church musicians, who dauntingly managed to put together a challenging music.

Fr. Magister Leo Nilo Mangussad served as the principal conductor during the premier night, alongside the Musicam Sacram choir master Ferdinand Bautista. The soloists who performed were soprano Charina Althea Balmores, mezzo-zoprano Katrine Jamar Sunga, tenor Ruzzel Adrian Clemeno, and bass Louie Angelo Oca, with organist Christian Dino.

The Musicam Sacram Singers & Ensemble is a young group of choristers and instrumentalists from different parishes and archdiocese in the Philippines who started gathering together for special events and liturgical celebrations such as the Chrism Masses and the Papal Masses in 2015. The group’s interest to deliver an extraordinary musical service in the liturgy fueled every member to dedicate themselves to this apostolate. Most of the singers are non-music majors and were eventually trained by the group’s musical director Ferdinand Bautista, who devoted his time to this vocation.

Mozart’s masterpiece

The Requiem is the last magnum opus of the music genius Wolgang Amadeus Mozart, describe by Pope Benedict XVI as a dramatic and serene meditation on death. He started composing the masterpiece in July 1791 when an “unknown, gray stranger” representing someone from a rich and powerful status showed up at his house carrying a note requesting to commission a Requiem Mass from Mozart on condition that he will not seek to learn the identity of his patron.

Mozart accepted the commission despite being deeply engaged in completing two operas The Magic Flute and La clemenza di Tito (“The Clemency of Titus”). He was exhausted, and the work later took a significant toll on the composer’s health.

The Mozart Requiem is a very valuable work that has been a huge influence in the classical and sacred music history. Its birth was masked with mystery, which made the entire work captivatingly poignant. Legend has it that Mozart thought he was composing for his own requiem. So, he gathered his students and sketched with them his planned musical structure for the entire piece before he died on December 5, 1971 at the age of 35.

Mozart’s identity in Requiem is evident by his usage of different interlays of vocal counterpoints combined in perfect melodic harmonies to emphasize the limbo of what death can bring to one’s self and loved ones left behind. This style is attributed to the influence of two Baroque maestros J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel. His orchestration most often focused on the strings. But woodwinds are highlighted when intense misery or pain is needed, while the brass and timpani are overlaid to signify strong emotions. Mozart’s musical genius transformed the Requiem into a liturgical reflection and an illustration of a wide array of musical grief models.

A Lenten spiritual concert

The premiere of the concert series was indeed presented for the sanctification of the living faithful and those who have departed. The concert concluded with a solemn moment of silence to pray for the souls in purgatory. Prayers were offered and Rt. Rev. Dom Austin Cadiz, OSB, the Abbot of the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat, led the sprinkling of Holy Water to the audience.

The presentation of the musical masterpiece came at a very timely moment when Christians observe the liturgical commemoration of death as the entry to eternal happiness. It also carried the Catholics to a greater sense of spiritual appreciation of eternal rest and the holiness of passing away.

On a much closer reflection to today’s experience, the Requiem also taught the living that death is not only the separation of the soul from the body. it is also the tragedy of neglect of one’s duty as a Christian and as a Catholic. It opens the thought of death to the impotence of the congregation’s responsibility and response to act like Jesus and manifest Christ-like deeds.

The prayer of the requiem transcends to invite every catholic to rise from the death of being a mere spectator to the Christian values and vocation that is shrouded by the mundane pleasures of the millennium. The music tells us that there is judgment, and that judgment will inevitably call everyone when they are ripe to take on a new journey on earth or afterlife.

Next performances

After the premiere, the Musicam Sacram Singers & Ensemble received a very warm response from the pilgrims who experienced the Requiem performance at the Abbey.

The group will be presenting the second run of Mozart Requiem on April 5, 7:00 p.m. at the Sancta Maria Stella Orientis Oratory of the University of Asia and the Pacific, Pasig City.

The group is also invited to perform in provinces outside Manila in the coming weeks.

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