In early December of 2019 I learned that Christopher Lee "Chris" Kocsis, our first recording engineer (who later went on to sing bass in 7 of our first 11 concerts) had died in November. After some silent mourning and contemplation, I decided to assemble, in his memory, a "next concert" program consisting of music that he had either recorded for us or sung with us (or both).
While I was in the course of planning it, my own mother, Mary Grace Pfeffer "Grace" Kendall, died late in the night of Sunday, December 22 at the age of nearly 96. So the "next concert" now had a second dedicatee, and needed to be re-planned.
During that re-planning came the news that Donald Everette "Don" Clark, Organist and Music Director Emeritus of St. Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in Washington (where we had performed many times), had suffered a stroke on January 2 and had died on January 4.
In the end I decided on a reprise of the concert Requiem that we presented in 2009, adding three short pieces in memory of Chris, Don, and my mother Grace, as a "Prelude" to the program.
Nesciens mater by Walter Lambe (c. 1540 - 1499) was the first piece Chris Kocsis ever recorded for us, as it was the first piece on our very first concert in 1986. You can listen to it on this website via the "Listen" button at the top of the homepage. He also sang this piece with us in June of 1997.
L'homme armé, an anonymous Medieval French chanson, was widely
used during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as a cantus firmus or "fixed melody"
around which polyphonic Mass settings were constructed. At least 30 of these have
survived. In a concert performed on April 1, 2007, at "Old St. Mary's" in Washington,
where Don Clark was Organist and Music Director, we performed two Missa L'homme
armé settings by Antoine Brumel (c.1460 - c.1512) and
Josquin des Prez (c.1445 - c.1521).
We began the program with the stanza of L'homme armé sung on this program. It seemed fitting to sing it before the two
Mass settings built around it.
It did not occur to any of us, though, that to a legendary joker like Don, the date of the concert would be irresistible. So when I came out to begin the concert and opened my music, I found on top of it a photocopied sheet of Chinese music that Don had gotten from the Chinese congregation, one of several congregations at St. Mary's.
It's short, Don, but this one's for you.
Ave Verum Corpus, by W. A. Mozart, is, of course, rather later than
our usual "pre-1601" time frame, but it seems fitting as a memorial because it was
the first piece my mother ever heard me conduct. Sometime during my junior year of
high school (1965-66), our school had a PTA meeting at which the Glee Club was to sing
a short piece, which turned out to be this one. Our Glee Club Teacher was a graduate
student at what was then RPI (Richmond Professional Institute, later VCU), and had
an irreconcilable, school-related date conflict. She was about to announce that we
would not sing for the PTA, when I volunteered to conduct the piece (easy enough, since the teacher had already done all the preparation work). My parents,
Sam and Grace, were, of course, at the meeting.
Conducting has been, shall we say, habit-forming. -- Timothy Kendall