A Child’s Requiem, an oratorio written by Lehigh composer Steven P. Sametz to honor the 20 children and six adults who were killed during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, was performed for the first time in two concerts last March.
On March 5, at the University of Connecticut’s Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, the university’s Symphony Orchestra and Concert Choir joined the Chorus Angelicus Children’s Choir, soprano Janani Sridhar and tenor Gregory Zavracky to give the work its premier under the direction of Jamie Spillane.
The same musicians joined forces again on March 7, to perform A Child’s Requiem in Stamford, Conn.
Sametz, the Ronald J. Ulrich Professor of Music and director of Lehigh University Choral Arts, wrote A Child’s Requiem with a commission he received in 2013 from the University of Connecticut when he won the 10th Raymond and Beverly Sackler Music Composition Prize. The competition, organized by the University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts, is an international award that supports and promotes composers and the performance of their new musical works. Every second year, entrants are asked to compose a piece for a specific area of the musical arts, chosen by the head and other faculty of the UConn music department, such as a jazz ensemble, choir, opera, wind ensemble, or chamber ensemble. This year’s prize is for chorus and orchestra, and entries were received from seven nations and 17 states.The prize carried an award of $25,000.
In an interview conducted by Silagh White, director of arts engagement and community cultural affairs at Lehigh, and Andrew Cassano, administrative director of the university’s Zoellner Arts Center, Sametz described A Child’s Requiem as “a response to child’s loss and grief.”
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Conn., and was the deadliest mass shooting at a high school or grade school in U.S. history.
Sametz, a native of Westport, Conn., said A Child’s Requiem “revolves around a libretto, much of which was written by children.”
“It’s paired with lines from [the American poets Ralph Waldo] Emerson and [Emily] Dickinson and H.D. [Hilda Doolittle, who was born in Bethlehem]. It’s kind of a collision between the adult world and the world of innocence.”
“I hope to offer this piece as a gift to the town of Newtown as they heal from their tragic loss.”
Sametz, who is also the artistic director for the Princeton Singers, an elite singing group, has received commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Council on the Arts, and the Santa Fe music festival. He has also composed music for Chanticleer, the Dale Warland Singers, the Philadelphia Singers, the Pro Arte Chamber Choir, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, the Connecticut Choral Artists and the King of Thailand.
His recent guest-conducting invitations include appearances with the Taipei Philharmonic Foundation, the Berkshire Music Festival, the New York Chamber Symphony and the Netherlands Radio Choir.