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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: November 18, 2014

The Oratorio Chorale and Bowdoin Chorus perform ‘Requiem’ during sold-out shows this weekend, but you can stream it online

Written by: Bob Keyes

In July 1791, a man unknown to Mozart approached the composer about writing a Mass for the dead.

Mozart was 35, and the most famous musician of his day. He had already written more than 600 musical works, including more than 40 symphonies.

He needed the money, said yes and began writing the “Requiem” for an anonymous patron. It would become one of the most mysterious pieces of music in history, and one of the most loved.

It also became his own funeral piece.

Mozart was bedridden by November, and died in early December, his requiem unfinished and left in the hands of his students.

This weekend, the Oratorio Chorale and Bowdoin Chorus, under the direction of Emily Isaacson, will perform the “Requiem” three times at Studzinski Recital Hall at Bowdoin.

All three concerts are sold out, but Bowdoin will stream the 6 p.m. Sunday concert live at bowdoin.edu/live.

Additionally, soloists from the concert will conduct master classes at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday that are free and open to the public.

The soloists are Esteli Gomez, Virginia Warnken, Eric Dudley and Dashon Burton. They’re part of a Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble known as Roomful of Teeth, which has been in residence at Bowdoin this week. The residency culminates with the weekend concerts.

Isaacson is longtime friends with one of the ensemble’s founders, and has worked with the group many times.

In addition to being a contemporary ensemble that performs new music, its members are among the top baroque and classical singers in the country, Isaacson said.

She’s bringing them to Bowdoin so they can express the range of their training and skills. They will join a chorus of nearly 100 and a 60-piece orchestra for a production “the scale of which is rarely seen in Maine,” Isaacson said.

She called Mozart’s “Requiem” an epic piece of music that can touch anyone. Mozart wrote it as he was dying, and although it was commissioned for someone else, he wrote with his own mortality in mind, Isaacson said.

“He is confronting big questions about life,” she said. “After we die, do we go to hell? Heaven? What is hell like? Is Heaven an eternal sense of rest?”

Mozart was not a perfect human being.

“He did sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” Isaacson said. “He had affairs and drank a lot. He was asking himself, ‘How will I be judged?’ Not so much, ‘How will I be remembered?’ but ‘How will I be judged?'”

ORATORIO CHORALE & BOWDOIN CHORUS ‘REQUIEM’

WHEN: 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 6 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Studzinski Recital Hall, Bowdoin campus, Brunswick

TICKETS: Sold out, but the 6 p.m. Sunday concert will be streamed live at bowdoin.edu/live

WAITING LIST: 207-577-3931

ALSO: Soloists Dashon Burton and Virginia Warnken will lead a masterclass at 11 a.m. Sunday in the Tillotson Room at Gibson Hall; Esteli Gomez and Eric Dudley will lead a masterclass at 3 p.m. Sunday in the same location.

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