Memorial: An Overview

(Note: Much of the information for this posting came from a page on the  René  Clausen Music website.) Composer René Clausen describes “Memorial (as) a composition for mixed chorus, orchestra and baritone solo, based on subject material which reflects the horrific events of September 11, 2001, in New York City.”

René Clausen was commissioned in 2002 by the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) to write a piece commemorating the tragedies of Sept. 11, which was performed at the ACDA National Convention in New York City in February, 2003.

Clausen, conductor of The Concordia College Choir, joined the exclusive club of composers commissioned to write the Raymond W. Brock Memorial Commission The Concordia Choir, and the Concordia Orchestra along with a choir made up of Concordia faculty and friends, were asked to perform Clausen’s composition.

This opportunity was, without a doubt, the highest compositional honor of my life...”  noted Clausen.

The text of the solo in the 25-minute piece uses portions of a series of prayers written during the week of 9/11 by Dr. Roy Hammerling of the Concordia religion department.

Presented as one continuous movement, the composition has four sections.The music of the first two sections, subtitled “September Morning” and “The Attack,” develop evocative imagery. “September Morning” attempts to musically paint a picture of a beautiful, sun-lit September morning in New York City. The chorus is used as a section of the orchestra, intoning wordless vocals in a Debussy-like tone poem. As might be expected, the music symbolizing the attack of the World Trade Center towers inspires music that is highly dramatic and employs non-traditional instrumental and vocal techniques that depict the catastrophic chain of events.

“The music is dissonant, rhythmically intense and colorful,” says Clausen. “The only text used in the first two sections is the phrase “O, God, why have you forsaken me?” The world for God is also presented in Hebrew – Adonai. The reason for this minimal text owes to the actual nature of witness responses to the shocking, unfolding drama of the attack.”

The second half of the composition, subtitled “Prayers” and “Petitions,” is a spiritual response to the events. The “Prayers” section is for baritone solo, chorus and orchestra. The final section, “Petitions,” is an introspective musical prayer for mercy, mutual understanding and hope for the future. The primary text is the phrase, “Oh God, shine your light on us, and we shall be saved.” According to Clausen, this phrase is presented first sequentially and then simultaneously in English, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic.

Becky was at the premiere performance of this piece at the ACDA Conference in February 2003 in New York City at Avery Fisher Hall.  She said that it was an emotionally charged work that left most of the audience in tears.

Tomorrow: My comments on Part 1, “September Morning.”  Please note that I meant to post the piece of “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) last night but forgot to until this morning.  So this post will be the second one today.  Think of one as being for Tuesday and this one for today.

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