program, “9/11: A Day of Remembrance,” started at noon Sunday with a classical music concert by the Brooklyn Art Song Society.
The concert was meant to bring the community together, remember the people who died on September 11, 2001 and “express the inexpressible” through music to heal those who experienced trauma, pain and loss.
“We wanted to pay tribute with music, for it's a medium that speaks to all people and provides emotional support,” said Laura Picariello, the managing director of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. “Music has always been part of my healing process.”
The concert was composed of three different duets, all led by Michael Brofman on the piano, who is the artistic director of the Brooklyn Art Song Society. He explained how the classic ballads they performed, written by composers Gerald Finizi, Arvo Pärt and Robert Schumann, related to 9/11.
“When I was first asked to do this concert I thought carefully because classical music, by definition is old, and the events of September 11 are current,” Brofman explained. “The attacks are something these classical composures could not have possibly understood. The sense of tragedy and suddenness is modern. I wanted to best capture the music, which some was written 100-plus years ago, and have it relate to us now for the modern tragedy of 9/11.”
The first two songs, by Gerald Finizi, who knew he was dying from Hodgkin’s disease ten years before he passed, had a different relationship with death than New Yorkers did in relation to 9/11, Brofman explained.
“9/11 represents the shock and sudden impact of unexpected loss,” he said. “But Finizi had a long time to ponder death.”
The first song, “Come Away, Come Away Death,” sung by Seth Gilman, baritone, and Brofman on the piano, represents death according to the living. The second song, “Fear no More the Heat I’d the Sun,” represents death according to the dead, who hopefully are at peace and are have calmly accepted their fate.
“We all in the end find peace and consummation all by varying means,” Gilman said after the performance. “But from the aged to the young we all ultimately parish. With that acceptance, and giving up the image of immortality, we can arrive at peace with the loss of the ones who we love by knowing it’s a natural cycle that will claim us as well.”
The second duet was Arvo Pärt’s “Speigel am Speigel,” which translates to “mirror in mirror.” Tema Watstein played the violin and Brofman was again on the piano. It was a 10-minute song that represents a sense of timelessness, for it’s tune has no real end. Brofman said the song symbolizes the world as an infinite cycle and we only have a short amount of time to experience it.
The last duet featured songs from the late 1800s by the German composer Robert Schumann. Brandon Snook, tenor, sang in German. All the songs dealt with the emotions people feel after they lose a loved one. “I Have in my Dreams Wept,” is about a man who dreamt his late wife was alive. When we wakes up he realizes it was all a dream.
The last classic Snook sang, “On a Radiant Summer Morning” was included because the weather on September 11, 2001 was “a radiant summer morning.”
Karen Geer, the executive director of the Conservatory remembers that morning clearly. At that time she was a lawyer at Harris Beach on the 85th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower. Everyday she arrived at 8 a.m. sharp. But that day she went to the polls instead, to cast her vote for the primaries.
Geer is also a singer and plays the tuba, but the concert she organized was therapeutic for her too. She listened as she remembered her co-workers who died in the attacks.
“I think the human voice is an natural expression of what’s urging in the soul and can transcend our feelings of grief,” Geer said. “I feel singing and prayer are truly related. When I sing I am praying. I’m praying that my voice and my singing is helping someone else.”
The people in the crowd all seemed touched by the classical music. Some were even dabbing the tears streaming out of their eyes.
At the concert’s end, Valerie Ghent, the executive director of Feel the Music!, a nonprofit which brings music, art and inspiration to children, families and adults impacted by trauma, loss or illness and held concerts for the firefighters who responded to 9/11, asked everyone to remember that we are alive today.
“Today is important to commemorate and remember. But it’s important to realize that tomorrow is September 12 and we are all still here, and the next day, September 13, we will all still be here, and next week, we’ll still be here,” Ghent said. “Music is healing, it brings us through difficult times. This weekend music is lifting up our heavy hearts and healing us ten years later.”