Ross Amico | For The Times of Trenton
on November 11, 2015 at 7:00 AM, updated November 11, 2015 at 7:08 AM
For composer and choral director Steven Sametz, the shootings at Sandy Hook are more than an abstract tragedy. Sametz hails from Westport, Conn., located just 20 miles from Newtown. The community, located in the same county, is very much like that turned upside down when 20 children and 6 adult staff members were shot to death on the premises of Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012, the deadliest mass shooting at a public school in U.S. history.
When, a short time later, Sametz was named the winner of the 2013 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Music Composition Prize, which resulted in a commission from the University of Connecticut to compose a piece for chorus and orchestra, he had no difficulty arriving at a subject.
“Because the award is administered to the University of Connecticut, because I am from Connecticut, because I was raised 20 miles from Newtown, because I wanted to do a piece characteristic of Connecticut, all those things kind of came together,” Sametz says. “I came to the idea that I would do a memorial for Sandy Hook.”
Sametz set texts based on writings and reactions of elementary school children who experienced loss and tragedy in their own lives, alongside poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson and H.D., to arrive at a sustained meditation on the impact on children of violence in our culture.
The result, “A Child’s Requiem,” is a 45-minute oratorio for children’s chorus, adult choir, three soloists and chamber orchestra. Sametz unveiled the work at the University of Connecticut in March.
Following on the heels of two further performances this past weekend at Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pa., where Sametz is Director of Choral Activities, he will bring the work to Princeton for its New Jersey premiere, with The Princeton Singers, the professional a cappella ensemble he has directed since 1998, and Princeton Girlchoir. The concert will take place at Princeton Meadow Church and Event Center on 11/21.
“I’m really happy to bring it to the Princeton community,” Sametz says of the work’s local debut. “These are absolutely questions that are beyond musical. They are social questions. How do we keep children safe, and can music provide healing in times of great grief? Those are the two things that are really present in the piece.”
Also on the program will be Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ravishing “Serenade to Music,” a work which, in terms of its sheer beauty, must be one of the most consoling ever written.
The concert is but one of at least eight choral music events scheduled to take place in Princeton in less than two weeks…
Princeton Girlchoir will present its 8th annual “Children Making a Difference” benefit concert on Saturday at Nassau Presbyterian Church. The concert will raise funds for Kiva. Kiva’s mission is “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.” Participating will be Grace Notes, a beginning level choir, Semi-Tones, the choir’s advanced-intermediate ensemble, and special guests New Jersey Youth Choir. Since the first “Children Making a Difference” concert seven years ago, Princeton Girlchoir has raised $18,000 for area nonprofits.
IF YOU GO
What: “Children Making a Difference” Benefit Concert
When: Saturday, 5 p.m.
Where: Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau St., Princeton
How much: $10 suggested donation
Contact: www.princetongirlchoir.org or 609-688-1888