Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls (2002)<br /> Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem
Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls (2002)
Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem


Click here for a press release (PDF) of information about this concert!

Saturday April 18th 7:30 P.M. @ ECC Church


Bloomington Chamber Singers presented the Indiana premiere of John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls, and Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, on Saturday, April 18 at 7:30 PM.  The concert was presented at the Evangelical Community Church, 503 South High Street, Bloomington, Indiana.  Gerald Sousa, in his 26th year as Artistic Director of the Chamber Singers, conducted the choral ensemble, treble chorus, and orchestra. 

When the New York Philharmonic approached John Adams in January 2002 about creating a work to commemorate the lives lost during the September 11th attacks, the composer remembers saying “yes” without any hesitation.  He had good reason to refuse; normally a commission as large as this would come at least a year in advance but this would need to be completed in less than six months. What emerged was a sound-collage that mixes a large orchestra, mixed choruses, and pre-recorded sounds and spoken phrases recalling those who perished in the attack.   Adams’ intention was that the work would go beyond the actual event to summon human experience on a universal level.  For that reason he refers to his work as a “memory space,” a soundscape for each listener to go and be alone with thoughts and emotions.    Adams received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in music for the piece.

Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem stands undisputed as one of the most revered works in the choral-orchestral repertoire.  The work’s reputation is based not only on its remarkable musical construction, but also on the inspired text, which Brahms assembled from carefully-selected Biblical passages.  Brahms’ intention was, like Adams’, to create a “universal” expression—a work profoundly spiritual yet non-denominational that reaches beyond the walls of churches to offer solace and hope to those confronting grief and loss.  


Here is the review of our concert in the Bloomington Herald-Times:

Reviewer hears an excellent Requiem

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | Apr 20, 2015

Two very different works dealing with grief and consolation were objects of attention for the Bloomington Chamber Singers during their Saturday evening concert in the spacious and nearly filled Evangelical Community Church,

Artistic director and conductor Gerald Sousa led his vocal ensemble, along with an added Women’s Chorus, and a full-scale orchestra, in a program that included John Adams’ 21st century “On the Transmigration of Souls” and the mid-19th century “Ein Deutches Requiem” (“A German Requiem”) of Johannes Brahms, works as dissimilar as two compositions could be but both certainly capable of capturing the emotional heart of most any listener.

The Adams piece was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, which premiered the work in September 2002, a year after the tragedy of 9-11, an event it was designed to remember. The composer said his work was not meant to be a memorial but a “memory space,” a private place one could escape into for contemplation. As for the transmigration of souls, he said he was honoring those souls suddenly moved from life to death, the victims, and those suddenly left behind, souls forever changed by the loss.

The score does not call for grandiose or eloquent statements. Rather, it offers street sounds of a day at first normal and then chaotically abnormal. One hears traffic. One hears voices, electronically produced before the concert, emoting human thoughts from that horrendous day: “Missing,” “Missing: Jennifer de Jesus,” “Missing: Manuel Damotta,” “Jeff was my uncle,” “A silver ring, his middle finger,” “Shalom,” “The father says, ‘I am so full of grief; my heart is absolutely shattered,’” “My sister,” “My brother,” “I love you,” and more. The chorus and the orchestra, meanwhile, weave a pattern of sounds: from quiet to shattering and back again and again and again, from calamity to calm and also back again.

The impact on this listener was considerable, not only because of memories brought back but because “On the Transmigration of Souls” packed an artistic wallop dramatically shaped by composer Adams and lovingly, thoughtfully filled in by Maestro Sousa and his performing colleagues.

How different the sounds produced for Brahms’ magnificent “German Requiem,” a work of sublime choruses and profuse lyricism. The death of the composer’s mother had been an early reason to write the piece, one that took time-and-again rethinking and rewriting across a span of years. In the process, Brahms told a friend he should have titled the Requiem “Human” rather than “German.” He used quotations from the Bible as his libretto, which contributes to the work’s universality, something larger, broader, deeper than just a German context.

The Brahms Requiem is not new territory for Sousa and his chorus. They’ve done it a before; they’ve even recorded an earlier performance. But on this occasion, there seemed a loftier sense of communion than previously, a conductor and his musicians driven by hard work and conviction to delve more vigorously into the beauties and significance of this profound masterpiece. They must have done so, because one heard an excellent Requiem. Singers and instrumentalists did nobly, as did two fine soloists: soprano Wai-Yin Li and baritone Reuben Walker.

Conductor Sousa put together a memorable concert.