Thoughts from Emily about our coming Brahms Requiem

Beloved…that word springs to mind when I think of the Brahms Requiem …especially now, it feels very much like music for our time.

Brisbane Chorale had programmed this work to be the opening concert of our 2020 season. We ceased rehearsals due to the Covid-19 pandemic a fortnight before the planned performance in March, so – although it was a very necessary decision – there was a sense of disappointment that the project was unfulfilled. This is why, after everything else in our season had been cancelled (like so many other performances around the world), we held on to the hope of performing it later in the year if the situation allowed.

Brahms Requiem is a work of consolation and hope, a journey from darkness to light. Johannes Brahms, a humanist and agnostic, made his own selections from the Bible, and set them to music in his native language, giving a more personal connection to the message. It is considered by many to one of his most personal and private expressions, which is perhaps why it has such a wide appeal, even if it is not in a listener’s native language.

Brahms Requiem is a work of consolation and universality. It’s often referred to as a “Requiem for the living”. The opening words, “Selig sind die da Leid tragen – Blessed are those who mourn”, acknowledge the pain of those left behind, but give hope of healing and comfort. The music is radiant, introspective, confronting, cathartic…it doesn’t promise a “happy ending”, but offers peace.

Doing a major concert at a time when it is anything but easy to be doing such a thing is an act of hope in the sustenance of our beloved choral art form. Gathering for weekly rehearsals is an act of coming together, affirming the powerful sustaining power of singing. Offering this music to be heard live in Brisbane is Brisbane Chorale’s way of involving others in this joy, and offering emotional connection at a time when that has never been more important.       

–  Emily Cox