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‘Remembering the Fallen’ choral concert next Sunday

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The cluster of stapled papers made a soft whisper as Richard E. Probert slid them across a restaurant table.

“There’s 272 names there,” he said, settling in for lunch at Vito’s Gourmet on Public Square.

Each name is a casualty of war — Fort Drum soldiers who died while fighting the global war on terror and local soldiers and Marines serving elsewhere who died in the war.

But they are more than names to Mr. Probert, director and founder of the Sackets Harbor Vocal Arts Ensemble. Behind each name is a story of blood, sweat, patriotism and the Fort Drum community.

“These are our friends, our neighbors,” he said. “We’ve seen them in grocery stores, we’ve had a beer with them, had dates and relationships. We’re simply not aware how many of these folks have died — killed in action.”

Mr. Probert will honor them the best way he can: through music.

“Remembering the Fallen: A Concert in Memoriam,” part of the Trinity Concert Series, is at 3 p.m. next Sunday — May 5 — at Trinity Episcopal Church, 227 Sherman St.

Mr. Probert has chosen two pieces for the concert — one, a plea for peace; the other, a requiem “for the living.”

“This is going to be a very fine and emotional concert,” he said. “We are so detached from the war. We talk about Fort Drum being an economic force in town, but there’s another side to that.”

Mr. Probert, a Sackets Harbor resident with extensive choral directing and teaching experience, began the chorus in 2006 with 17 singers; this year there are 64 members from throughout Jefferson County.

“This chorus is a good chorus,” he said. “It’s the premiere chorus of the north country.”

Mr. Probert selected “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“Grant Us Peace”), a cantata by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), and “A German Requiem” by German composer Johannes Brahms (1833-97).

“I love doing these two pieces but I’ve never put them together in a concert,” Mr. Probert said.

The contrast is striking.

“Dona Nobis Pacem” depicts war’s “pestilence and negative energy,” he said. “And the Brahms ‘Requiem’ is such a tender recognition of death.”

“This is unlike other requiems,” Mr. Probert said. “It’s a requiem for the living and a celebration of life through the acknowledgement of death.”

Mr. Probert noted that Ralph Vaughan Williams had been an artillery captain in World War I.

“He was aware of the carnage of war,” he said.

Most of the lyrics in “Dona Nobis Pacem,” written in 1936, are by American poet Walt Whitman, who volunteered in Army hospitals during the Civil War.

Whitman’s “Beat! Beat! Drums!” begins:

Beat! Beat! Drums! — Blow! Bugles! Blow!

Through the windows — through the doors — burst like a ruthless force,

Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation.

“The soprano (Diana Gamet) almost screams ... at the very beginning,” Mr. Probert said. “The chorus and orchestra supply the energy underneath that solo. In the background you hear the artillery of the base drum — there’s lots of percussion and the bugles are playing.”

But the piece, Mr. Probert said, “ends very quietly, asking us to share in peace.”

He described the Brahms “Requiem,” in contrast, as “very romantic and extremely melodic.”

Although the “Requiem” is frequently sung in English, the ensemble will sing it in the original German.

While learning the German has been difficult for the singers, Mr. Probert said the group is up to the challenge.

The concert program will contain a translation of the German.

“We could have gone with English, but it’s a less solemn sound,” Mr. Probert said. “The original language has a certain flow to it and a certain rhythmic bounce.”

“Dona Nobis Pacem” is about 40 minutes long and the “German Requiem” is about 55 minutes long. There will be an intermission between selections.

“If there was a concert to go to and you’ve never been to a classical music concert, this is that concert,” Mr. Probert said. “It’s immediately accessible. It has a lot of good noise.”

In addition to two professional soloists, the concert will have a full paid orchestra consisting of musicians from the north country and from Rochester, Pittsburgh, Montreal and New York City.

As for the chorus, Mr. Probert said, “All of our singers are volunteers and come from all walks of life.”

He said that they will have put in a combined 2,500 hours of rehearsal time.

“I think that speaks well for community service. But it’s extremely rewarding,” he said. “Talent doesn’t know geography. We need to demand excellence. Or it doesn’t flower.”


The details
WHAT: Sackets Harbor Vocal Arts Ensemble presents “Remembering the Fallen: A Concert in Memoriam,” part of the Trinity Concert Series
WHERE/WHEN: 3 p.m. next Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church, 227 Sherman St.
COST: Preferred seating is $16 for adults and $14 for military members and senior citizens. General admission is $14 for adults and $12 for military members and senior citizens. It’s free for students in kindergarten through college with ID.
Advance tickets or those purchased online are discounted $2. Visit www.trinityconcerts.org or call the church at 788-6290, ext. 3.
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