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Durufle: Requiem and Giroust: Requiem for Louis XV


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Durufle: Requiem and Giroust: Requiem for Louis XV

Good Friday Concert
Friday, April 14, 2017
8:00 p.m.

The most unusual item of the evening is the Requiem written for the death of Louis XV of France, in 1775. For centuries, the anniversary of the previous sovereign was marked with a special service at the royal abbey of St Denis, north of Paris. In 1775, François Giroust (1737-1799), the chapel master of the palace of Versailles was asked to provide new music for this service.

Giroust had been appointed to this position in 1775, possibly because Mme Giroust was a great friend of Marie Antoinette. Being in charge of the music for the Versailles chapel required producing about forty minutes of music daily, for the fifty-member choir, and thirty-plus member orchestra. Timing was critical, with the King anxious not to be late for hunting. While Marie Antoinette was musical, and was a patron of artists and musicians, Louis XVI preferred hunting, and repairing clocks. He found the yearly drive, with the whole court, to St Denis tiresome, and at one point moved this Requiem to Versailles. The piece is exceptionally attractive, and is scored for choir, strings and organ.

As you may know, by October 1790, a mob gathered at Versailles to force the royal family back to Paris. The music for the morning service had been laid out, since nobody could foresee its being cancelled. After a year working with the court in Paris, Giroust was forced to return to Versailles, where he ended his days by being a concierge in the palace, raising bees, and playing revolutionary songs on the chapel organ.

The Giroust Requiem is being sung, by us at Central, for the first time in the world, since May 1790. My thanks to my friend, Jack Eby, of Bishop’s University, who is the world’s authority (or actually, the only authority) on Giroust, for making the music available to us before it is published.

Nearly 200 years later, Maurice Duruflé (1802-1986) composed a requiem in honour of his father. We have sung this piece several times before, and it’s always a pleasure to come back to it. Written for choir, strings, trumpets, drums, and a very difficult organ part, it is really one beautiful melody after another. In all, it will make for a great evening, especially with one seldom heard work, and one that is a modern premiere.

Tickets for this evening will be available from March 5, from choir members, on line, and from the church office. Until April 2 they are $20. After that date, and at the door, they will be $25.


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