St. Joseph's Church in Willimantic was packed on Sunday night, Jan. 13, as more than 250 singers and musicians from across Connecticut paid tribute to the 26 children and adults who died on Dec. 14 in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
In addition to 218 singers from choirs and chorale groups across the state, 28 guest musicians served as the orchestra in the performance of Gabriel Fauré's "Requiem," a seven-part lyrical tribute sung entirely in Latin. A number of Eastern faculty, students, alumni and friends participated as singers or musicians, with Music Professor and Vocal Studies Director David Belles serving as conductor and event organizer.
In his opening remarks, Belles said his immediate response to the Dec. 14 tragedy was to think of how he could gather a musical ensemble to celebrate life and honor those who had perished: "I sent an email, made some phone calls and within 72 hours, more than 200 people said they were on board." Belles closed by quoting noted composer Leonard Bernstein, who said after President Kennedy was assassinated, "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."
Prior to the concert, Ken DeLisa, vice president for institutional advancement, thanked the assembled performers and Eastern's music faculty and students on behalf of the University, noting that music can help us deal with tragedies that might otherwise be impossible to bear.
In addition to the ensemble performance of Fauré's "Requiem," the Thread City Brass Quintet performed pre-concert music; chamber singers from Eastern and Guilford High School sang "There Will Be Rest" by Frank Ticheli; Eastern Music Professor Anthony Cornicello premiered his piece, "Panis Angelicus," written especially for Sunday's concert and played by Michael McCarthy on organ; and Music Professor Okon Hwang performed "Ave Maria" by J.S. Bach and Charles Gounod on piano.
More than $4,000 in donations were collected at the door for the Victoria Leigh Soto Memorial Endowed Scholarship; the Sandy Hook Elementary School Fund; and Newtown Children and Family Services.