Cornell joins MHC Glee for Brahms’ Requiem

Photo by Olivia Brandwein ’22   A community orchestra and the MHC and Cornell Glee Clubs joined to bring Brahms’ Requiem to Abbey Chapel last Saturday.

Photo by Olivia Brandwein ’22

A community orchestra and the MHC and Cornell Glee Clubs joined to bring Brahms’ Requiem to Abbey Chapel last Saturday.


The Mount Holyoke College and Cornell University Glee Clubs were joined by a community orchestra to present Johannes Brahms’ “Ein Deutsches Requiem” last Saturday, March 23. A German composer from the Romantic period, Brahms wrote the piece between 1865 and 1868.

Abbey Chapel was packed full of students and members of the surrounding community on the night of the performance. “I thought it was really cool to see a really big piece that Mount Holyoke students were a part of,” said Savita Diggs ’21. “It was fun to see it with the Cornell students and with the full orchestra, and I really liked how engaged the audience was. The person sitting next to me was following every single word!”

The requiem is an epic that explores the “shared human experiences of mortality, loss, comfort, joy and hope” with its lyrics drawn from the German Luther Bible, according to the event’s program. The emotional music is heavily reflective of the sentiments of the Romantic period. Its seven movements cycle through different moods; the tone shifts from sympathetic to mourning to ultimately triumphant. Its length and structure are similar to those of many traditional Latin requiems, except that it is completely in German.

Glee Club member Healey Suto ’19 said, “I really started to appreciate the piece when it all came together with all of the voices and the orchestra. It was really compositionally cool, and once you know it, you start to realize how it all ties together and how there is a pattern with motifs that come back and it’s very dramatic!” Mount Holyoke and Cornell have previously collaborated to achieve a full four-part choir with higher and lower voices.

The piece was mostly sung by the two Glee Clubs, but was highlighted by spectacular solo performances from Clarisse Colao and David McFerrin. Colao is a critically acclaimed soprano and has sung at venues including the Lincoln Center and the United Nations Headquarters. McFerrin is an award-winning baritone who has been showcased at multiple opera houses in America and Germany. McFerrin’s mother was a professor at Mount Holyoke College, as well as the director of the Glee Club, from 1970 to 2006. “They both came out really strongly and you could always hear them. I think they did well,” said Diggs.

Cornell and Mount Holyoke Glees’ “En Deutsches Requiem” was unique, according to Suto. “We got to collaborate with another glee club which had a lot of tenors and basses,” Suto said. “We got to experience what it’s like to sing with 100 singers and 50 musicians, so 150 people total. That’s very different from what we’re used to, because it’s usually 50 of us, and we’re all treble voices.” The opus was beautifully performed, and received a well-deserved standing ovation at its finale. Suto said, “it was really fun! [Cornell Glee] had great energy. They are amazing musicians and very respectful, fun people, so we had a great time!”