Beautiful sounds emanated from Saturday night as the Pasadena Master Chorale performed the much-loved Eine Deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms. While the piece is performed often, audience members were treated to a rarity: Shawn Kirchner and Alan Steinberger played Brahms' reductive arrangement, meaning they sat together at one piano to play, while surrounding vocalists sung around them.
Jeffrey Bernstein, conductor and artistic director of the Pasadena Master Chorale said, “Choirs love singing Brahms’ Requiem. It is accessible yet moving and it’s compelling for its intimacy. I see the piece as a series of emotional tableaus.”
It is precisely the emotional nature of the work that choral singer Elizabeth Ricks finds challenging. “I have to really stay focused,” says Ricks. “The emotional power of the words and the music can overwhelm you.”
The Pasadena Master Choral performs most of its concerts in area churches because of rectories' superior acoustics and their suitability to spiritually-themed music, which choral music often is.
Brahms’ Requiem is comprised of a careful selection of poignant bible verses and psalms sung in German. The tone of the music shifts from soft and angelic to powerful and mighty (akin to the powerful Word of God coming down from on high); this style is suited to choirs, as it’s the kind of thing that only communal voices can really capture.
Standing out from the choral group at Saturday’s concert were two soloists, the stunning soprano Krystle Casey and baritone Scott Graff. Both were very capable in their roles and Graff’s smooth voice especially captured the night’s stated theme of “Be Comforted by Brahms.”
Attendee Michael Aherne enjoys coming to all the Pasadena Master Chorale concerts, not only because his girlfriend, Elizabeth Ricks, sings in the choir but because he enjoys the music. “I’m a drummer myself,” says Aherne, “but I love vocal works. Sometimes you hear a note that’s not being created by an actual singer."
"They’re called overtones,” adds Ricks, "and they’re wonderful.” Overtones are a musical phenomenon prevalent throughout Brahms’ Requiem where the combination of certain voices creates a new harmonic sound.
The Pasadena Master Chorale’s next concert is called “Green Concert: Music for the Earth” with music by Aaron Copland. It will take place June 4 at the La Crescenta Presbyterian Church.