Famous work sung in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart for the first time

The Notre Dame Liturgical Choir performed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem in D minor in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart for the first time in the basilica’s history on March 24, 2024. 

The Requiem, popularized in recent decades by the 1984 film Amadeus, was composed by Mozart shortly before his death in 1791. Though he did not complete the work before his early death at 35, the Mass was soon completed by Franz Süssmayr. In his closing remarks at the performance, Fr. Brian Ching, C.S.C. commented how fitting it is to perform this Requiem during the week in which we commemorate Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection. 

The Liturgical Choir spent several months rehearsing this eight-section masterpiece; singers began studying their scores in September. The length and difficulty of the music posed an immense challenge, but the choir collectively strove to learn the music and perform it with feeling. 

Junior soprano Caroline Gramm said of the rehearsal process, “We picked up on the difficult music a lot more quickly than our director Andy had anticipated. I honestly think this was due to the amount of passion people had for this piece of music. The excitement surrounding this Requiem was palpable among the choristers, both in and out of rehearsal.” 

Director Andrew J. McShane agreed, saying, “The choir loves the music so much that teaching it was easy.” McShane, who first performed the Requiem as an undergraduate in college at Wayne State University, frequently reminded the choir that this opportunity was a rare one: “You don’t get to do pieces like this very often,” he told the singers. 

Though Mozart’s Requiem is widely performed today, it had never before been performed in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Gramm told the Rover, “The space invokes a sense of piety and awe of God’s majesty, and is a reminder that heaven will be all the more glorious. Performing the Requiem in the basilica, rather than DPAC for example, invokes that same appreciation. It allows us to perform this Requiem not as a concert, but as a prayer of petition to God to remember those who have departed this life.” 

The choir remembered in a special way those who have passed from this life into the next with a book of remembrance, which was filled with names of the faithful departed and placed on a podium in front of the orchestra. There was also no applause during or after the performance in order to better remember the spirit of Holy Week as well as the souls of the faithful departed. 

The dedication of the choir and its directors made an impression on many who attended the performance. Freshman Anna Hale told the Rover: “The Requiem was such a great way to begin Holy Week. The voices of the choristers were truly angelic, and together with the instrumentation, anchored me and helped to orient me toward the true spirit of the week.” She continued, “Merely attending the performance was a beautiful way to praise God and prepare for his Passion, death, and Resurrection.”

Those who attended the performance were moved by the beauty of the music as well as of the space itself. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend told one singer that he “experienced something transcendent” during the performance, which was standing room only. 

Though the concert was free and open to the public, the Liturgical Choir took up a free-will offering to benefit the restoration of St. Adalbert Church in South Bend. 

Madeline Huie is a sophomore triple majoring in classics, theology, and music performance. She hopes that Holy Week is spiritually fulfilling for all, and she will be excited to finally get some sleep when it is over. Please send conspiracy theories about ancient Rome (or business-related inquiries) to mhuie@nd.edu

Photo Credit: Bridget Murphy

Subscribe to the Irish Rover here.

Donate to the Irish Rover here.