The Lehigh University Chior, led by Director Steven Sametz, performs as part of their Tour to Italy in May of 2015. (Courtesy of Sarah Dudney)

Choral arts to perform song in memory of Sandy Hook shootings

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In memory of the tragic shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Steven Sametz, the founding director of the Lehigh University Choral Union, composed the oratorio Child’s Requiem.

“I think that Child’s Requiem can really speak to anyone who can remember feeling grief for the first time, it’s generally a pretty memorable experience,” said Olivia Haley, ’17, a member of the University Choir.

Sametz wrote the piece for the University of Connecticut as part of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler 2013 Music Prize and its first performance was premiered in March of 2015 by the University of Connecticut Choir and the Chorus Angelicus children’s choir.

“I am so grateful to so many for help in creating A Child’s Requiem,” Sametz said.

He included thanks to the children who wrote the texts and made drawings that inspired the writing of the work. These drawings can be seen around campus advertising the event which will take place Nov. 6 and 7 at 8 p.m. in Baker Hall at Zoellner Arts Center.

“School children submitted not only texts, but drawings with their ideas of loss and afterlife,” Sametz said. “One of these images, a picture of angels holding hands on a cloud in heaven, was given to me at the very outset of writing and guided some early choices in the piece. I knew it couldn’t only be about loss and mourning.”

In response to the tragedy that took place in Newton, Connecticut, Sametz was compelled by the images of the media and the basic human fear that came as a result to compose a memorial piece.

“Foremost, I did not want to intrude on the grieving process of the families and community,” he said. “But as artists, we are hopeful that what we create may offer healing to those who mourn. The journey of writing A Child’s Requiem was unique for me.”

After submissions of poetry and drawings commemorating the event flooded in from school children in support, Sametz said he combined them with the poetry of Emerson, Dickinson, H.D. and poetry of his own to portray the “grieving, violent, conflicted world of the adult.”

Members of the choir singing the oratorio also specially prepared for the performance.

“I think this performance really speaks to the tension between innocence and tragedy when they encounter each other,” Haley said. “Even more than that the performance dwells a lot on the frustration of adults when they can’t protect children from tragedy. The choir took a lot of care in preparing for this performance musically and emotionally.

“Emotionally it was definitely a shock to open up the music for the piece and find what we were supposed to sing when we first got the sheet music.”

Sarah Dudney, ’17, the publicity manager of the University Choir, spoke to the special way in which the performance should be viewed by the audience.

“The audience should be aware that this is not a typical choral arts concert,” Dudney said. “The subject matter is very different, and we usually don’t have this many outside groups performing with us. This is truly a special occasion commemorating an impactful event in our history, and therefore the performance and atmosphere will be different.”

The choral oratorio will serve as a memorial for those who lost their lives during the atrocity of Newton, Connecticut and the performance will represent the emotions of those affected. Sametz and the choral groups who will perform A Child’s Requiem offer with their voices and words, respect for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

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