PUSD choirs collaborate to perform Mozart Requiem

A mixture of melodies floated through the air as the altos, sopranos, tenors, and basses sang their respective tunes to the wave of guest conductor Dr. Keith Pederson’s baton.

The PUSD Advanced Ensembles and the Rancho Bernardo Chamber Orchestra united in order to put on the Mozart Requiem, Saturday and Sunday, at the Poway Center of the Performing Arts.

“My favorite part of this performance is definitely being able to sing with the other choirs from our district,” Singers council member Maya Howes (12) said. “I think that’s what makes music so special, because we may be yelling at each other at football games, but when we sing we all come together as one.”

Mozart was commissioned to write a requiem, but he fell sick and died before completing it.

“There’s so much behind [the story],” choir teacher Daniel Moyer said. “It’s one of the masterworks of choral orchestral literature and it’s one of those things that are a monument to our specific art form.”

According to Moyer, the Mozart Requiem is notoriously difficult, and as such, he prepared the students for the harder sections, such as the double fugue, since the second day of school.

“It’s a tricky piece because a lot of it [the Requiem] is polyphonic, meaning voices are singing different words and have different rhythms at different times,” Moyer said. “There are several movements where it’s homophonic, where everybody is saying the same words at the same time, but when everybody has got their own theme, or there are two themes weaving in and out from another, it gets pretty tricky to follow.”

Due to how technically demanding the piece was, many had to adjust how they approached it, Howes said.

“I think that my hardest challenge was hitting the high notes repeatedly for such a long period of time,” Howes said. “It taught me how to have the stamina to sing high notes and how to manage my breath control.”

Soprano section leader and Singers council member Nandini Rajgopal (12), a soloist in the performance, said that due to the classicality of the music, it was difficult to keep singers inspired and keep their attitudes positive.

“There were very complex sequences of notes and rhythms that were pretty advanced in comparison to what we were used to,” Rajgopal said. “That, mixed with Latin words and a tall classical tone was difficult to achieve.”

Students practiced both during class with their choir teachers and after school in a total of four group rehearsals. The first two group rehearsals were comprised of just the PUSD choir teachers and students. The third included Pederson, while the fourth added the orchestra into the mix.

Both Howes and Singers council member Jack Setran (12) agreed that it was hard to stay together in the group rehearsals at first.

“[A] challenge that I think the choir as a whole faced was being rhythmically on time together, especially the parts where we’re all singing the same melody but each part has to sing it at different times on top of each other,” Howes said.

“It’s easier to rehearse at individual schools because you are used to how your conductor leads you, but when all of the schools in PUSD convene with a new director, it can be difficult to learn his nuances and stay together as a unit,” Setran said.

Despite the challenges presented, the students continued to practice with the advice of Pederson and the other choir teachers.

“I was so proud of the effort that they put in, and the time that it took. I know how much time it takes to perform this piece. It is not an easy sing, and for them to handle it so well, with great poise and grace, I was very happy about that.”