SUNY Oswego and community choral singers will perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Requiem” in a free concert, open to the public at Saturday's spring appearance of the Oswego Festival Chorus.

The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, 103 W. Seventh St. in Oswego, led by Mihoko Tsutsumi, the college music department's director of choral activities. 

The ensemble is made up of choral singers from SUNY Oswego as well as residents of the Oswego community -- an approach that lends talented voices to the concept of college-community engagement.

Martha Lyon, a community member participating in the Festival Chorus, encourages newcomers to attend the concert. “The Mozart requiem -- keeping an open mind, its consonant harmonies are comfortable on the ears. It is not simple music and consonance does not always equal simplicity,” she said.

A requiem is a somber-toned mass often performed in a church setting; the form was very popular in the Catholic Church during the height of the Classical music era. The most popular composers created requiems under the church’s or wealthy parishioners' patronage. The series of prayers for the dead could utilize the same text but, depending on the composer, result in a different final product each time.

“(Requiem) music is uplifting; depending on the text, audience members may feel a sense of anger from Verdi, peace from Faure -- different evocations from the music,” said Lyon.

'A rarity'

Mozart's death in 1791 left his "Requiem" incomplete, Tsutsumi noted. Initially, it was completed by Mozart's student, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, but other composers since have offered their own completions.

"This piece, in particular, is a rarity, simply because it's incomplete and because Mozart actually died before he could finish it, leaving his wife to seek another composer to complete the piece," Tsutsumi said. "This, then, has made Mozart's 'Requiem' the most famous requiem there is. It has been famously reported that he was sick and he felt as though he was writing his own requiem."

St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church is a frequent venue for concerts, where Oswego residents enjoy access to the classical brilliance of Mozart and many others. The church's design inspires audiences with its historically rich appreciation of Roman Catholic cathedrals.

“If you close your eyes, you can see angels. The church was created to be Heaven on Earth --proportions are replicated to draw your eyes heavenward,” said Lyon. 

To reach the audience, choir members try to have a single voice, and the acoustics of the church help as songs reverberate, she said.

“The Festival Chorus is a concert experience, not a worship service. Don’t fear that, because these are the prayers of the dead -- there exists a mystery of life and death as well as anger and coming to acceptance of life and death,” Lyon said.

Tsutsumi has led the Festival Chorus and college choirs for nearly six years. Before joining the SUNY Oswego community, Tsutsumi earned a degree from Japan’s Osaka College of Music and a doctorate from Florida State University.

Contact the SUNY Oswego music department at 315-312-2130 for more information.