Friday, 2 December 2011

Brahms German Requiem - University Great Hall University Choral Society and Scholars Ensemble supporting World AIDS Day Thursday 1 December

This Thursday was World AIDS Day. The day is dedicated to support and remembrance for all HIV and AIDS sufferers, and all those affected by the disease. It has been held on 1st December every year since 1988. Currently more than thirty million people are infected with HIV, nearly one hundred thousand in the UK alone. Nearly thirty million have died since the outbreak in 1981, developments in treatment and prevention are painfully slow, and new legislation has been needed to protect suffers from the further burden of stigma and discrimination.

World AIDS Day is an opportunity to raise awareness about the continuing AIDS crisis, to promote education and action to help prevent the spread of the disease, and to raise money for charities in the forefront of the fight against the terrible consequences of the AIDS epidemic. In the UK that is the National AIDS Trust - NAT (

On Thursday the Exeter Univeristy Choral Society, and the Music Scholars Ensemble, joined together under the musical direction of conductor Marion Wood for a benefit performance of Brahms' 'German Requiem'. There were two performances, one from 11pm to midnight on the night before World AIDS Day (in Kay House at Exeter University) and one in Exeter University Great Hall at 7.30pm on the evening of 1st December.

The Requiem is a very appropriate choice of music for such an occasion. In 1856 Johannes Brahms lost his dear friend Robert Schumann, who only lived to the age of forty six. Robert had died of a disease just as terrible at that time as AIDS is now - syphilis. When Johannes' mother died in 1865, his compounded grief found expression in this extraordinary 'Mass for the Dead'. He kept this religious beliefs to himself, and avoided any overt reference to christianity in the work, but used the words of the christian bible extensively - the books of Isaiah, psalms and the new testament.

At the World AIDS Day concerts there was no charge to hear the music. Every performer, and every member of the audience, made a contribution to NAT in return for a small red ribbon to wear during the performance in recognition of sufferers around the world, and in support of all efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

The music was familiar of course, but played on this occasion with a special poignancy which left a lasting impression. Each player and each singer put special emotion into the words and music. The resulting effect was both beautiful and full of tragic mourning - but with the final message of hope for a better world.

Congratulations and heart-felt thanks to all those involved. A very moving and effective contribution to 2011 World AIDS Day.

      Marion Wood Conducts . . .
Second Desk: Ellen Stratton
First Desk: Jo Maimaris

The men . . .

and women of the Exeter University Choral Society

with full orchestra - The Music Scholars Ensemble
(Photograph by Riannon Cheffers-Heard)


Flutes: Martha Soffker, Abigail Gray, Caitlin Jones

Cor Anglais & Oboe:
Sammie Buzzard, Stephen Martin Mason

Bassoons: Jack Telfer St Claire, James Lloyd

Horns: Hannah Rice, Jamie Blencowe, Lydia Carter, Susie Laker

Tympani: Ali Board
Harp: Oliver Ritchie


First Baritone: Andrew Henley
sings part III 'Herr, lehre doch mich'
'Lord, let me know [my life's end]'
(Looks familiar? - Counterpoint Choir)

Soprano: Anya Williams
sings Part V 'Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit'
'Ye now are sorrowful'

Second Baritone: Michael Willmott
sings Part VI 'Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt'
'For here we have no continuing place'
against the full roar of the brass
Scott Williams, Ed Farrow, Tilman Schulz-Klinger
Tuba: Chris Armantage-Wells

Excellent work again by Musical Director Marion Wood
- not forgetting Leader Kit Fotheringham (
and 'Cello Leader Milly Bowen - receiving a mute acknowledgement here

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