Choirs reunite for vocal tribute to September 11


When Tom Jaber takes over at noon on September 11 to lead a mass choir, he will do so for the 19th time in honor of the lives lost in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, the Pentagon in Arlington County. , Virginia, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

On September 11, 2001, four commercial airliners, originally bound for California, were hijacked in mid-flight by Al Qaeda terrorists who inflicted untold pain on a shocked nation. The 2,977 dead at the time (not counting the hijackers) were the highest number in a single act of terror on the continental United States. The sting of death may have abated, but not the revenge and anger felt by those who have lost loved ones.

The maestro will conduct a mass choir in performances of Mozart’s Requiem. The first takes place on Saturday September 11 at noon at the Saint Basil Hall of Saint Anne Catholic Church, 2140 Westheimer Road in Houston, and the second on September 12 at 4 p.m. in the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church in Kingwood, 5520 Kingwood Drive in Kingwood, Texas.

Jaber and his fellow musicians on the occasion of the first anniversary of the national tragedy offered a balm to a healing nation in the form of musical reflection and purification with their interpretation of Requiem in D minor, K. 626, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ( 1756 -1791).

About music

The concert features the choral sounds of the Saint Anne Catholic Church Choir, from RESOUND! and the Kingwood Chorale. The soloists are soprano Kanisha Feliciano, mezzo-soprano Jillian Krempasky, tenor Joshua Berg and bass-baritone Dylan Gregg.

The orchestra and choir will be conducted by Maestro Tom Jaber at the piano.

The first of two concerts will be on Saturday, September 11 at noon at St. Anne’s Catholic Church at St. Basil Hall, 2140 Westheimer Road, Houston 77098. The second concert will be on Sunday, September 12 at 4 p.m. at First Church Presbyterian at Kingwood, 5520 Kingwood Drive, Kingwood 77345.

Both concerts are free to the public.

“There’s a reason we’re performing Mozart’s Requiem on the 20th anniversary,” Jaber said.

He explained that within a year of the deadly attack, he was contacted by an official in New York who invited him and the Rice University Choir to participate in a rolling Requiem.

“The idea was that choirs around the world would perform the work at 8:46 am in their own time zone, the exact time the first plane struck the first tower,” he described.

Jaber said he thought it was a crazy thing to agree to do, but found it strangely appealing and stimulating to think that they would be ready to perform a piece as important as Mozart’s Requiem over the years. first three weeks of school.

“I don’t mind taking those kinds of risks,” said the maestro.

Since then, every year Jaber has found himself in front of a choir conducting some form of homage on or around the date each year.

The difficulty of building a choir around pandemic politics has not discouraged choristers or chamber choirs and soloists who have committed to singing and playing with masks.

“I think I only have blessings beyond measure left,” Jaber said of the musicians who rehearsed for the auspicious occasion.

After one of the rehearsals at Kingwood, Jaber said, “It’s going to sound wonderful! “

Jaber invited his friend and alumnus Dr. Todd Miller of Kingwood College and the Kingwood Chorale Community Choir to join his choir at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Houston and his own choir, RESOUND! reunite in dark memory.

Jaber has shared his love for music with Miller for the past 30 years.

“When I was trying to be an opera singer, he trained me. When I did my doctoral work at UH, he performed my doctoral recitals, ”Miller said.

They collaborated together on several occasions as musical directors in Methodist churches and Miller hosted Jaber for choral workshops and performances of the Messiah.

Miller and his combined choirs at Kingwood performed Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem on the first anniversary.

Four of Jaber’s students who receive the guidance of the maestro have agreed to perform the solos: Kanisha Feliciano, soprano; Jillian Krempasky, mezzo-soprano;

Joshua Berg, tenor; and Dylan Gregg, bass baritone.

Since the first performance of Requiem, Jaber has had time to reflect on the performances.

“I never thought I would spend this time in my life doing a memorial concert every year, but I think it’s very important to do it. I was touched by the experience, ”he said.

He has also seen the choir singers and orchestra members who have joined him in performances over the years found the experience moving and meaningful.

The text is taken from the Latin Requiem Mass in the Catholic Liturgy.

Jaber compared the Brahms to Mozart.

“When we sing Mozart, we say prayers for those who have died, and when we sing Brahms, we ask prayers for ourselves,” he said.

Mozart died before he could complete the massive work and it was completed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr in 1792.

Jaber dismisses any criticism for including the Süssmayr portions, saying the Lacrymosa is one of his favorites.

The Requiem is not an easy work to perform with the 16th note melisms and the double fugue in the Kyrie at the beginning of the work.

“I’m not as worried about rehearsing 24 hours with you,” he said of the choir, “as much as I’m passionately interested in so many people who want to experience it. ‘teach through difficulties.

The Kingwood Chorale, a community choir, has performed Mozart’s Requiem several times in the past and Miller has said he believes they will be ready.

“It wasn’t too much of a stretch,” said the director. The choir has been in existence for 31 years and Miller has conducted them for 26 years.

“We’ve done most of the choral orchestral masterpieces now, which is fun,” he said.

The Choir didn’t perform at all last year due to COVID but did a brief release concert in July with repertoire from their past and some patriotic music.

“Now we’re just trying to find a way forward. We are going to sing, ”he said.

The public is not required to wear a mask, but the artists will.

“It’s an added safety measure, of course, and I’ve been doing it all year round. It’s not ideal, but it’s amazing how good people always sound, ”he described.

Some members gave up until the pandemic was over and circumstances improved.

Jaber started his own chorus RESOUND! in the fall of 2019 with 60 members after his tenure as head of the Houston Masterworks Chorus. Shortly after several performances, everything stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been a challenge, sure, but it was an honor when they actually seem to have taken on some of the glory that comes with this great music. And that’s why I do it, ”said the maestro.

For the student turned conductor himself, Miller is happy to collaborate with Jaber at all times.

“It’s wonderful to work with Tom. He’s an amazing musician and a wonderful human being and I think people are hungry for that. And it’s just a really lovely way to commemorate a sad moment in American history, but we won’t forget the lives that were lost, ”he said.

There will be social distancing at both locations.

The concert is sponsored in part by the Lake Houston Musical Arts Society and patrons can follow the Kingwood Chorale on their website at

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