Called a “perennially superb ensemble” by The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Master Chorale makes its Harris Theater debut with Music to Accompany a Departure, staged by acclaimed theater director Peter Sellars. In this staging — described as “transcendent” by the Los Angeles Times — twenty-four singers from the Chorale breathe life and movement into this deeply personal meditation on death and what it means to say goodbye in times of struggle.
Together, the Chorale and Sellars have created a stirring, searing, and thoroughly contemporary work from an ancient source: composer Heinrich Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien (Funeral Music) is a musical response to the plagues of his time. Considered to be the first known requiem composed in the German language, the Musikalische Exequien stands as Schütz’s most extensive funerary composition. The work, composed during the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War, anticipates the great oratorios of Bach while synthesizing the major traditions of sacred orchestral and choral music from past composers and Schütz’s own era.
With its innovative use of solo and choral sections, Music to Accompany a Departure is presented as a ritual of leave-taking for our time. In this ceremony of remembrance and devotion, the music speaks with both quiet emotion and an enormous depth of feeling, with solo voices interacting with a constantly shifting combination of choral forces in this homage to those who have left us. The result is a stirring piece that reminds us that grief and transformation are eternally linked, and that saying farewell can be a source of inspiration and strength.