Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Remembrance Day

January 27 is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today honored the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945.

Tonight the Chorale's Young Singers Project held its dress rehearsal for concerts January 29 & 30, entitled Lift Every Voice.

Early this morning, our dear friend and colleague, Lisa Relaford Coston, left everyone who had the privilege of knowing her bereft.

In addition to being a world-class musician--a mezzo soprano par excellence, exceptional in everything from Monteverdi to Messiaen, broadway, gospel & jazz--Lisa was a great teacher, mentor, colleague, friend, and even more, she was a great human being. As modest about her gifts as she was generous in sharing in them, she has touched the lives of thousands of students, colleagues, and audiences in Hampton Roads and beyond.

Lisa was THE mentor for the high school altos in our Young Singers Project. Before her hospitalization a couple weeks ago, she helped me lead the first week of rehearsals for YSP. I shared the tragic news with our Young Singers tonight. We had just finished a dress rehearsal of a program devoted to "music of conscience." In addition to being the title of the YSP program, "Lift Every Voice" is the title of the Chorale's 2009-2010. Though this is my second season with the Chorale, it is the first one I planned. No one offered more helpful or insightful advice in those planning stages than Lisa.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the phrase "the Lord works in mysterious ways" has assumed the status of cliche. I have never felt its resonance as I do now. The season Lisa--and other singers, colleagues and board members--helped me plan ends with two concerts centered around a cappella Requiem settings. The closing concert of 2009-2010 is entitled "Perpetual Light" and juxtaposes the Renaissance masterpiece Requiem by Victoria with the little known setting by the early 20th century Italian composer, Ildebrando Pizzetti. Our next concert, "Ears Wide Open: Celebrating Women in Music" is programmed around the Canadian composer Eleanor Daley's English language Requeim.

The centerpiece of Daley's beautiful, contemplative work is a hymn-like setting of the anonymous elegy, "In Remembrance."

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I shared these words with the Young Singers tonight, telling them that not only our concerts this weekend but the entire Chorale spring season would be dedicated to Lisa's memory.

[Our concert has been rescheduled for Sunday, February 7, at 3 pm.
Lisa's obituary appeared in the Virginian Pilot Feb 1]:

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