Music in the upcoming Greenwood Festival Chorale concert in collaboration with Greenwood High School Eagle Singers and accompaniment by organ and an orchestra, is chill-worthy.
It will give you goosebumps.
The free concert is at 4 p.m. March 19 in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church of Greenwood. It is part of the church’s cultural arts outreach started in 2001 that is funded by donations and grants.
More than 100 voices are collaborating to sing composer Dan Forrest’s “A Requiem for the Living.” It is a soaring contemporary Christian-themed choral work that is “a prayer for rest for the living, as much as for the deceased,” according to Forrest’s program notes about the work.
“A Requiem for the Living,” by New York state native Forrest, is described as something that is “designed to bring comfort to the living,” evoking feelings of “all-enveloping peace and eternal light.”
It was commissioned and premiered by the Hickory, North Carolina Choral Society for their 35th anniversary season. Forrest wrote it over a period of about 16 months in 2012 and 2013.
The concert also includes Forrest’s “Arise, My Soul, Arise” (2012) and Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” (1938).
The Greenwood Festival Chorale is directed by Marion Smith, and the GHS Eagle Singers are directed by Gina Jolly.
Smith said he was familiar with “A Requiem for the Living,” and a couple of chorale members asked if the group could sing it.
“It is probably going to be the most magnificent thing we have done in my two years as chorale director,” Smith said. “It is awe-inspiring, and I do think people will enjoy it.”
Initially, Smith said he wasn’t sure if the lengthy choral work was a good fit for the chorale.
“But then, I thought, ‘Let’s go for it,’” Smith said. “It has turned out to be one of the chorale’s favorite pieces.... Collaborating with the Eagle Singers has been a great outreach and gotten more people involved with the chorale from the community. They have enriched us, and we are enriching them.”
Chorale member and tenor Richard Huckaby, who is also director of music at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Greenwood, said the Requiem piece has “totally floored” him.
“I have loved it from the first minute we started singing it,” Huckaby said. On Tuesday afternoon, I watched a couple performances of it on YouTube. Each time we sing it, I think I love it more.”
So many people are performing that members of the chorale have worked together for two Saturdays to build a platform to accommodate the additional singers, Huckaby said.
During a recent chorale rehearsal, Smith tossed Mardi Gras beads to singers before practice began. They were mementos he recently picked up on a trip to visit family in Mobile, Alabama.
Smith led them through warm-ups. Then, he and Jolly conducted, with Tobi Otekayi accompanying on piano in the First Presbyterian sanctuary.
Jolly said this experience is providing her students with something different.
“Singing with a string ensemble is fantastic and an opportunity that I wouldn’t be able to arrange for my students without this collaboration,” Jolly wrote via email. “It has been great for the teenage students to sing with a choir of adults who are volunteering their time, just because they love music and have a passion for singing.”
GHS Eagle Singer Matthew Shirk, a junior, describes it as “an amazing experience.”
In an email, fellow GHS Eagle Singer senior Rachel Darby said, “This opportunity for the Greenwood High School Eagle Singers has stretched us as musicians and strengthened our connections in the community. Also, we have the opportunity to sing with a live orchestra, something too expensive for our school to support.”
Darby went on to say that being invited to sing with the chorale has been a privilege and rewarding experience.
Baton in hand, Smith animatedly conducts, occasionally wiping sweat from his brow with a towel.
“This is a relatively new work by Forrest and it’s demanding of singers and the organist and orchestra,” Smith said, noting Forrest has written that parts of the requiem were inspired by images from the Hubble Space Telescope and from the International Space Station -- pictures of Earth and the majesty and grandeur of God.”