Old Friends

Wabash College, and the Britten War Requiem

Waaaay back, when I was a sophomore in college, our Cultures and Traditions class had a unit on World War I. We read a poem by Wilfred Owen that remained with me ever since, “Dulce et Decorum est.” It's message, and the final line of its verse, came from an ode of Horace: “sweet and fitting it is to die for once country.” We studied the pat, self-satisfying attitude behind that quotation, found not only in Owen's verse, but even inscribed upon a famous British barracks wall. As if jingoistic verse could compensate for the loss of thousands and thousands young lives.

Last week, I had the privilege to return to my alma mater where I had been invited to present a seminar at a symposium entitled “Wally Tunes: Music and the Liberal Arts.” Contemplating my possible topics, the confluence of my introduction to Owen and my own upcoming performance of the Britten War Requiem, which hinges upon Owen's writing, offered the perfect “close the circle” moment.

It was an honor to share my love of Britten's masterpiece, Owen's sensitive verse and choral music at the bosom of my nascent musical life. And, to share the stage with other faculty and alumni presenters-music faculty James Makubya and Peter Hulen, alumni Philip Seward, Gordon Bonham and Allen Schulz, and even my dear former piano teacher Diane Norton-was a true honor. Add to that the fun of reuniting with classmates, professors (I told the Chemistry Prof whose class I dropped-along with the chem major-to become a music student that I owed him my thanks!) and fellow Britten devotees (Michael Sells, my former dean and board president, even made the trek to offer his support), well, you can see what a great time it was.

Mostly though, it reminded me how lucky I am to be surrounded by great friends. From those who took classes with me, to those who taught me and are teaching still, even to those whom I'll never meet face to face but whose musical and poetic achievement inspire me and my work every day, I can't imagine a life filled with better friends. Thank you for being among them too!

Indianapolis Symphonic Choir presents Britten's WAR REQUIEM Saturday May 3, 2014, 8 pm at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts, with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Butler University Chorale, Indianapolis Children's Choir, Indianapolis Men's Chorus and soprano Sinead Mulhern, tenor Thomas Cooley and baritone Chris Nomura.<!–more-