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On Nov. 14, 1940, England's Coventry Cathedral was lain to rubble in a savage World War II Blitzkrieg raid. Hundreds of civilians were killed, and the 14th-century cathedral was left a ruined shell.
The charred walls of the ancient church were left standing as a stark memorial when a modern cathedral was later built at the site. For the building's 1962 consecration, British composer Benjamin Britten created a monumental musical work meant to capture the terrors of battle and the catharsis of reconciliation.
"War Requiem" is rarely heard because of the gargantuan musical forces it requires. Its most recent Utah performances were presented by the Utah Symphony under Keith Lockhart in 2000. This week, there will be two new opportunities to experience the "War Requiem," as a combination of ensembles under the direction of conductor Craig Jessop will perform the work in Logan and Salt Lake City.
Jessop, dean of Utah State University's Caine College of the Arts, is conductor of Logan's American Festival Orchestra and Chorus, the backbone of the assembled performance forces.
"It's been 50 years since Britten wrote this work," Jessop said, "and in my opinion it's one of the greatest works of the 20th century."
The Nov. 11 Salt Lake City performance is particularly significant because it will be on Veterans Day, known as Armistice Day in Europe.
Britten's unusual requiem juxtaposes the ancient words of the Latin Mass for the dead with the heart-wrenching English poetry of Wilfred Owen, a British foot-soldier killed during World War I. The male soloists and chamber orchestra sing the Owen texts, representing soldiers sacrificed in war.
The choir, orchestra and soprano soloist perform the Latin text, speaking for those who mourn the dead. It's left to the ethereal voices of the children's choir to hold out hope of an innocence far from the battlefield.
"The subtle, yet complex opus combines the talents of over 300 musicians," Jessop said, promising a solemn and stirring experience for audiences.
Craig Jessop conducts two concerts of Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem" by Logan's American Festival Chorus and Orchestra.
With • Fry Street Quartet, Logan Canyon Winds, Utah State University Chamber Singers, Cathedral of the Madeleine Choir School, Cantate-Cache Children's Choir, soprano Carol Vaness, tenor Stanford Olsen and baritone Christopher Grundy.
When • Friday, Nov. 11, at 8 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, 331 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City; and Saturday, Nov. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Ellen Eccles Theater, 43 S. Main St., Logan.
Tickets • The Cathedral of the Madeleine performance is free. Tickets for the Logan performance are $16 to $22. Discounts available for groups and students. Visit: americanfestivalchorus.org.