Their works do follow them
I'm singing Brahms Requiem for the first time, with a director who is leading it for the last time.
George Kent has been the heart and soul of The Chorus of Westerly for 53 years. It is deeply moving to watch a legend as he prepares to leave behind what he's built. Mrs. Lynn Kent is part of the soprano section and she started Camp Ogontz, the Chorus' bucolic summer home. We've hugged her and cried with her all year, because we're going to be saying goodbye to her, too. At the final rehearsal, Mr. Kent was not thinking legacy; he was focused on getting the sopranos to match pitch with the strings. "We don't come here for two hours on Thursday nights so the sopranos can sing flat!" (He said that with great exasperation on May 3; I know because I wrote it down. I often write down directors' bons mots in my scores; they're fun to recall and sometimes they make more sense to me than writing fortissimo or diminuendo.)
The Brahms is Mr. Kent's favorite work, and it's quickly becoming my favorite as well. It's such a personal, intimate choral work, yet it's unbelievably majestic and grand. It is about souls experiencing great suffering and receiving blessed consolation. "Remember, this is not really a Requiem. It's an . . . ALIVE!" he said. "Just keep on concentrating, that's really what we have to do here."
After three hours of rehearsal, the chorus was exhausted. But Mr. Kent seemed to grow stronger with each hour, becoming more and more animated in his conducting and expression. He could see we were weary, so he talked to us for a bit. "The crux of it all is right here," he said, pointing to the words of the seventh and final movement, taken from Revelation: And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
"Their works do follow them," said Mr. Kent, quietly but insistently. Suddenly understanding what was in front of us, the Chorus suddenly recharged, and then we were off, singing with expression and emotion. Mr. Kent scrunched up his bearded face in determination and delight.
Thank you, George and Lynn Kent, and Godspeed. Your works do follow you.