Sunday, April 01, 2012


 Johannes Brahms composed Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem, because it is in the German language) between 1865 and 1868. It is my favorite choral work. Why? Because it speaks to my spirit and not with specific dogma. In fact, Brahms himself may have wanted to call it a "Human Requiem."

When I was much younger and a member of the Brooklyn Philharmonia Choral Society, we performed the Brahms Requiem, both at BAM and in other venues around Brooklyn--most notably at an African-American church in Bedford Stuyvesant where congregants yelled "Amen!" during the fugues. I'm not complaining about that. In fact it was hearing the heartfelt reaction to the music that made me feel a great kinship with Brahms.

Also, as a tending-towards-secular Jewish woman, I appreciated how much of the scripture in the Requiem has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, but focuses on comforting the living.

Now I am not someone who believes that Heaven and Hell are our reward or punishment for after we die. Rather, it is my belief that they are here, now and our lives are either wonderful or hellish. And for some reason, that's how I take the 4th movement "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen." (from Psalm 84).
"How lovely are your dwelling places."

How lovely is the earth on which we dwell, infused with the spirit of hope and goodness! In springtime it is especially easy to rejoice in our dwelling: blooming flowers, blossoming and greening trees. How good it is to be alive!  And today, Village Presbyterian is hosting a performance. Really. How lovely, how lovely and the music makes it even more so.

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