By Joyce Abdulian
PASADENA – Even though we are about to enter the solemn period of Lent, the Johannes Brahms German Requiem, performed by the Lark Musical Society on Saturday, March 2, 2019, ushered us into the glory of Easter with its “Promise of Hope”—They will enter Zion with singing…Gladness and joy will overtake them. (Isaiah 51:11). God’s word came alive through the powerful, transcendent voices of the Lark Chorus, with the LARK Orchestra under the masterful direction of Maestro Vatsche Barsoumian. Considered his greatest vocal work, Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) intended his famous German Requiem to be for the living instead of the departed—a non-denominational statement of faith.
Following the concert, the audience, at the annual collaboration of the Lark Musical Society and the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA), at the stately Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California, was bussing with small gatherings animatedly discussing the majestic performance of the Brahms Requiem with exclamations of: “The soaring music transported our souls to the heavens.”
Soloists: Baritone, Edward Levy, Soprano, Suzanne Waters performed inspiring renditions of Brahms’ message—Your heart shall rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22).
The prelude to the Requiem was two other works by Brahms; Schicksalslied, Op. 54 (Song of Destiny) completed in 1871—is an orchesteral accompanied choral setting of a poem written by Friedrich Holderlin. Alto Rapsody, Op 53 written in 1869 as a wedding gift to Robert Schuman’s daughter, is a composition in a setting of verses from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, performed with a soul-stirring rendition by Mezzo-Soprano, Garine Avakian.
In a pre-concert scholarly lecture, Doris Melkonian shared how Brahms was greatly influenced by Martin Luther’s German Bible. He established his reputation on Ephesians 2:8: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is a gift from God. Doris shared how the theme was drawn from the fourth movement of the Requiem, “And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:7) The Promise of Hope is a greater hope, a hope in God, and the hope of eternal life through Christ Jesus.
The presentation of Brahms Requiem by the Lark singers and musicians, under the direction of Maestro Vatsche Barsumian, was the most moving experience that I have ever had. The music permeated my body and soul. As I sat there listening, I felt as if I were going to heaven on the wings of an angel. With the recent passing of Dr. Mihran Agbabian, a longtime supporter and member of the AMAA, the evening was dedicated to his memory. Ken Kevorkian, Chairman of Concert Organizing Committee.
Lark Musical Society President, Andy Torosyan shares: I am proud of the AMAA and LARK for bringing the community together with a magnificent concert featuring Brahms’ German Requiem. The performance was powerful and made us feel the music came to life and we were a component part of the experience that Brahms intended. Not only was it awe inspiring, but it ended in a peaceful prayer and reminded us of our mission to serve God by serving our fellow mankind. I am grateful to everyone who attended and supported the concert. As you know, nonprofits cannot continue their mission of service to the community if the community does not in fact support the nonprofit. I look forward to next year’s concert and invite everyone to come and celebrate the Lenten season with us.