Anna Hamre and her illustrious singers in the Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale knew they wanted to mark an important date: the 75th anniversary of when U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were forced into internment camps during World War II. But how would the programming for such a concert work?
Unlike past recent concerts by the chorale — which has tackled such provocative themes as the Armenian genocide and Alzheimer’s disease — there wasn’t a particular composition or cultural body of music that would work in terms of repertoire.
“These were Americans that were put in concentration camps,” says Hamre, the ensemble’s musical director. “It’s not like we could just do ‘their’ music. They were listening to swing bands back then, just like everyone else.”
But then came an idea: How about a program that included a modern-day version of the Latin Requiem, and then a piece that exemplifies healing and joy?
That’s the idea behind “Remembrance and Healing: Executive Order 9066 and the Incarceration of Ethnic Japanese in America,” which will be performed Sunday, Nov. 19 at Shaghoian Hall.
(I’m giving away a pair of tickets to Sunday’s concert to a lucky reader; for details on how to enter, see the end of this post.)
The executive order, which was signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, sent 120,000 men, women, and children to camps in World War II.
The concert lineup includes lots of special touches, including a performance by the Fresno Gumyo Taiko drummers. The pre-concert speaker is Dale Ikeda, a noted local judge.
The first half of the concert features Dan Forrest’s “Requiem for the Living,” a Fresno premiere. The composer describes the piece:
The first movement pours out the grief of the Requiem and Kyrie prayers, facing grief head-on and grappling with the sorrow that is common to all human existence. The second movement bitterly portrays the problem of pain that we all wrestle with, and which causes a crisis of faith for many people…My setting of the Sanctus text is literally a depiction of God’s wondrous glory [and] the final movement is simply an arrival at rest and peace.
The second half of the concert will kick off with the Central Valley Japanese School’s Children’s Choir, which will sing three songs, one featuring the traditional Japanese koto. Another special offering will be a plaintive cello solo by Dieter Wulfhorst and a brief talk by Sab Masada, an internment camp survivor.
After so many poignant moments, how can you close out such a concert?
“We have to end on a positive note,” Hamre says. “And the universal anthem of hope is the Ode to Joy.”
The chorale, which is being accompanied by a professional orchestra, will perform the final movement of the famed Beethoven Ninth Symphony.
Soloists are Maria Briggs, Katherine Sanford, Aaron Burdick, Lim Forgey, and Ryan Anton.
Hamre hopes that the balanced nature of the program, ranging from the darker impulses of human behavior to the transcendent compassion and joy that is possible for our species to attain, will be the best way to offer a positive take on a troubling moment in U.S. history.
“That’s the power of music,” she says.
“Remembrance and Healing,” Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, Shaghoian Hall. Tickets are $25.
The Munro Review is giving away a pair of tickets to “Remembrance and Healing.” To enter, leave a comment on this post answering this question: Have you ever been to a Master Chorale concert before? Deadline to enter is midnight Friday. I’ll let the winner know Saturday morning. You’ll be able to pick up your tickets at Will Call.
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