Sopranos rehearsing the Brahms Requiem are, from left, MarySue French of Port Angeles, Elizabeth Bindschadler of Quilcene, and Kelly Sanderbeck and Susan Roe of Port Angeles. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/For Peninsula News)

Sopranos rehearsing the Brahms Requiem are, from left, MarySue French of Port Angeles, Elizabeth Bindschadler of Quilcene, and Kelly Sanderbeck and Susan Roe of Port Angeles. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/For Peninsula News)

Brahms masterpiece to bring symphony together Saturday

Public rehearsal at 11 a.m.; evening concert at 7:30

PORT ANGELES — “This piece is so close to my heart,” Jonathan Pasternack said. In his earliest memory of listening to music, there is Johannes Brahms. Throughout his boyhood, his parents filled the house with Brahms’ German Requiem. It was one of the Brahms masterworks Pasternack has loved ever since.

Pasternack grew up to be a musician, playing many instruments and conducting orchestras around the country. This Saturday, he will lead 100 singers and 75 orchestra musicians in a performance of Brahms’ Requiem at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center.

In his ninth year as conductor and artistic director of the Port Angeles Symphony, Pasternack will step onto the stage for two public events: the dress rehearsal at 11 a.m., one hour later than usual, and the evening concert at 7:30. Tickets can be purchased at, Port Book and News in Port Angeles and at the door of the Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave. More information is available by calling 360-457-5579.

“Concertgoers will not only take in the glorious sound of this very special music, but they will also witness upward of 175 people making music together on stage,” Pasternack said.

“The Brahms Requiem is such an emotionally moving and consoling work,” he added.

This music is different from other requiems; it is not like Mozart or Verdi’s requiem masses that follow the traditional Catholic liturgy.

The feeling of singing with a 100-voice chorus is “so cool,” said alto Weezie Jenkins of Port Townsend.

“Each part buoys up the other ones,” she said of the sopranos, altos, tenors and basses.

“There’s sort of a braidedness. The parts overlap and weave around each other ... and when the instruments come in, it’s just amazing.”

Brahms’ Requiem “is totally in a class by itself. It is one of the most beautiful pieces you will ever hear,” added Susan Roe, a soprano in the chorus.

If the opportunity arises to sing this piece, she added, “no matter where or when, you grab it.”

Pasternack has been gathering singers from Clallam and Jefferson counties, Seattle and Victoria, B.C., for the past eight months. The Requiem will be sung in German; scholar and singer Charles Douglas of Victoria provided the English translation that will appear in the concert program.

Baritone David Meyer of Shenandoah, Va., and Seattle soprano Kristin K. Vogel will join the orchestra as soloists. Vogel will sing in the fifth movement, a song Brahms wrote especially for a voice such as hers.

Its message, Vogel said, is this: I will comfort you when you are in sorrow. I will comfort you as a mother does. When we see each other again, nothing will take away our joy.

Music such as this “is what feeds me,” said Vogel, who has performed with the Port Angeles Symphony many times. She will sing the role of Mimí in the symphony’s concert production of “La Bohème” at Field Arts & Events Hall on June 23.

There is a coincidence in the date of the Requiem performance, Pasternack said.

Saturday would have been his father’s 100th birthday. Mel Pasternack was a World War II veteran who, at 20 years old, survived the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge and who received the Silver Star. He went on to become a schoolteacher and assistant principal, and was also a gifted pianist, theater director, actor, writer and photographer. Mel died in 1985 at 61.

Pasternack didn’t plan it this way, but the Requiem is a meaningful piece of music to play on Mel’s centennial. For both father and son, Brahms is a beloved composer. He offered a response to the universal experience of loss.

“At the core of the Requiem,” Pasternack said, “is consolation for those who grieve.” And the other essential theme, he added: Those who have passed from this world live on in the art they left us.


Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Port Townsend.

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