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CFA Symphony Hall Concert Honors Marathon Victims

Berlioz Requiem, art exhibition celebrate healing in tragedy’s wake

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When Ann Howard Jones decided to take on Hector Berlioz’s Requiem—the French Romantic composer’s Grande Messe des morts, Op. 5—for tonight’s annual Boston University spring concert at Symphony Hall, she knew she would have to rein in a monumental, rarely performed composition—rarely performed because the score calls for 700 voices and brass choirs positioned at the four corners of the concert hall. The 90-minute piece, which takes its text from the Latin Requiem Mass, will be performed by the BU Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus in honor of the victims and first responders of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings just a week before to the tragedy’s first anniversary.

Jones, a College of Fine Arts professor of music and director of choral activities, will lead 150 voices, 2 off-stage brass choirs, and other quirky instrumentation in the inventive, often thunderous Requiem. With sections ranging from a booming tympani ensemble to mournful a cappella to haunting, mantra-like two-note repetitions, the piece is a fitting commemoration of an event that claimed three lives, seriously injured scores of others, and united a city in grief and healing. One of the three killed was BU graduate student Lu Lingzi (GRS’13).

A Parisian contemporary and friend of Franz Liszt, Victor Hugo, Frederic Chopin, Alexandre Dumas père, and George Sand, Berlioz (1834-1869) was an influential music critic as well as a composer. Among his other best known works are the opera Benvenuto Cellini and the narrative Symphonie Fantastique. The Berlioz Requiem is “scary because it’s such a huge piece,” says Jones. “It has lots of big singing, lots of high notes. It’s inventive, it’s curious, it’s different than anything anyone here has ever done before. It’s more than just a quirky piece. The genius in the orchestration is just remarkable.” In orchestra rehearsals for the performance, conductor David Hoose, a CFA professor of music and director of orchestral activities, asked the musicians if anyone had ever played it; none had. “It’s just not a piece that comes around often,” Jones says.

The Requiem features soloist Christopher Hutchinson, a versatile tenor well known to BU audiences. A student at CFA’s Opera Institute, Hutchinson (CFA’14) sang the role of Arcadio in the recent CFA production of the opera Florencia en el Amazonas and has performed with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Chautauqua Opera, Arizona Opera, Opéra Louisiane, the Berks Opera Workshop, and Southern Arizona Opera Company, among others. During the annual CFA Fringe Festival in 2013, he performed the role of Davey Palmer in Jonathan Dove’s Siren Song and sang in the CFA operas Owen Wingrave by Benjamin Britten and Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito.

The CFA Symphony Hall concert is an annual spring event, but this year it will be accompanied by a Healing Boston Arts Reception, honoring the University’s numerous ties to last year’s Marathon bombings and its efforts to heal the city through art. The reception will feature an exhibition curated by visual arts major Taylor Mortell (CFA’14)—titled Still Running: An Art Marathon for Boston, based on an organization of the same name she founded last April. The exhibition showcases works on paper created by professional and amateur artists in a series of community art-making events held over the past year at venues around campus, among them CFA’s 808 Gallery and the Commonwealth Gallery. Boston Police Chief William Gross will speak at the reception.

The BU Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus are dedicating tonight’s concert in memory of Lu Lingzi. The graduate student in statistics had studied piano at CFA prior to her death.

“Music was part of her identity,” says Benjamin Juárez, dean of CFA, “just as Lingzi was part of ours.”

Tonight’s concert will be webcast live on the CFA School of Music website and will be rebroadcast on the school’s Virtual Concert Hall.

The Boston University Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus concert, presented by the CFA School of Music, is tonight, Monday, April 7, at 8 p.m., at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. Seating is general admission. Tickets are $25; student rush tickets are $10, available at the door today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Members of the BU community can receive one free ticket at the door on the day of the performance. Purchase tickets here or call 617-266-1200. The Healing Boston Arts Reception is at 6 p.m.

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Susan Seligson, Senior Writer for BU Today and Bostonia
Susan Seligson

Susan Seligson can be reached at sueselig@bu.edu.

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