Gathering at Carnegie Hall to Find Solace and Catharsis in the Music of Mozart
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Published: September 12, 2006
About 2,500 people attended a free community sing arranged by the Juilliard School. The New York Mets sponsored the event.
The conductor took the podium at Carnegie Hall yesterday, facing members of the orchestra and chorus onstage. But then, she turned to the audience, gave a sweeping beat and for 45 minutes led New Yorkers and visitors in a musical expression of 9/11 remembrance.
Carnegie played host to a communal sing arranged by the Juilliard School to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks. The orchestra was made up, mostly, of Juilliard School students. The Juilliard Choral Union, a community and conservatorywide choir, provided the vocal backbone. The soloists were members, current and past, of the Juilliard Opera Center, a training program.
And the audience? Anyone who picked up a free ticket at the Carnegie box office yesterday morning. People started lining up four and a half hours before the 12:30 performance, with the queue snaking from 57th Street around the corner along Seventh Avenue and halfway down 56th Street toward the Avenue of the Americas. About 2,500 people came, not quite filling the hall.
“I felt the need to experience community,” said Lorna Sass, a freelance writer from the Upper West Side. “Art heals. Sharing art has even a larger capacity to heal.”
The musical fare for this 21st-century tragedy was a meditation on death by an 18th-century Austrian subject of the Hapsburg Empire: the Mozart Requiem. The work begins with the words of the Latin Mass, “Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,（註：Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine,)” then proceeds through the consoling, the terrifying and the sublimely tranquil.
“It is the Mass for the dead, and I feel it brings peace to our lives,” said Barbara Kullen of Shoreham, N.Y., who was waiting in line with two chorister friends from Long Island. They, like many others in the audience, brought their own scores; copies were also available at the door.
Judith Clurman, Juilliard’s director of choral activities, was the conductor. Onstage, with the soloists dressed in black, Ms. Clurman asked for a show of hands of sopranos, altos and basses. “Is there a tenor in the house?” she asked jokingly. With few other preliminaries, she jumped into the music.
A healthy smattering of audience members sang. Some tapped their feet. Others peered at their scores through reading glasses. One soprano moved her head and shoulders in sympathy with the music, coming in a bit early out of enthusiasm.
The orchestra held a few ringers. Joseph W. Polisi, Juilliard’s president, played second bassoon. Clive Gillinson, Carnegie’s executive and artistic director and a former member of the London Symphony Orchestra, sat in the cello section. The soloists were Erin Morley, soprano; Faith Sherman, mezzo-soprano; Jeffrey Behrens, tenor; and Matt Boehler, bass.
Mozart’s Requiem has often been summoned in solace-demanding moments, including services for Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin and even Napoleon. The first sections were also played at a memorial service for Mozart days after he died while writing the piece. His student Franz Xaver Su¨ssmayr completed the work.
“We all need something to make us feel that we want to remember and keep going,” Ms. Clurman said in an interview. “I think the Mozart Requiem hits the spot.”
Indeed, the piece has done noble duty for 9/11. It was sung often on the first anniversary, when the Juilliard forces and Ms. Clurman also held an open performance at the Juilliard Theater. Hundreds of people that day could not squeeze inside.
Last spring, in a casual conversation with Mr. Polisi about the event, Mr. Gillinson offered Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium, which seats 2,800. Donors had to be found to cover about $50,000 in costs. Mr. Gillinson said he approached Sanford I. Weill, Carnegie’s chairman. Mr. Weill, in turn, tapped Fred Wilpon, the principal owner of the New York Mets and an acquaintance, Mr. Gillinson said, and the team ended up sponsoring yesterday’s event.
About 100 tickets were set aside for officials of the Mets organization, although the players were on a road trip to Miami to play the Marlins.
Carnegie has long been a New York gathering place for momentous events. President Woodrow Wilson reported on the Treaty of Versailles there in 1919, the hall said. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made one of his last public appearances there, in February 1968. On Sept. 30, 2001, James Levine, Leontyne Price and Yo-Yo Ma, among others, performed in a concert of remembrance for those who died 19 days earlier.