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Musical composition "Memorial" debuts
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Rene Clausen's "Memorial" stretches the musicians and chorus to explore emotional and spiritual dimensions of the September 11th attacks. (Image courtesy of Concordia College)
Rene Clausen, conductor of the Concordia College Choir faced a daunting task. The American Choral Directors Association commissioned Clausen to write a piece capturing the emotional and spiritual elements of the September 11th tragedy. The piece, "Memorial", debuts Friday at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Moorhead. The choir and orchestra will then travel to New York for a performance Saturday.

Moorhead, Minn. — After recieving the commission last spring, Rene Clausen plunged into research for six months.

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Image Rene Clausen

Clausen says he watched every television show, every documentary he could get his hands on. Then his wife recommended he read the book, "From the Ashes: a Spiritual Response to the Attack on America." Clausen says the book gave him a new perspective.

"Because there is the drama of the events themselves and there is the response to it and that became the essence of my piece, the drama and then the response," says Clausen.

Clausen says the book, sparked a number of ideas for the 30 minute piece.

"It has four definite sub-sections. The opening I call 'September Morning'," says Clausen.

Clausen says the piece then moves into the "The Premonition."

"That before the attack there was ominous premonition. It moves from this beautiful morning to the premonition which then leads to the all-out attacks, and at that point the music goes beyond traditional orchestration," says Clausen.

Particularly compelling is one section sung by the unaccompanied choir.

"Actually in the chorus at (that) point rather than singing it, they're wailing. At the point of the attacks the chorus becomes the victims in the buildings," says Clausen.

According to Clausen the most difficult part of writing "Memorial" was capturing the emotional and spiritual elements of the attack.

"Most of the musical emphasis and the bulk of the piece is actually in the response the spiritual response to this, hopefully the themes of the piece are cleansing and hope," says Clausen.

"Our cellist here, Eugenia Slezak, has a quote from the famous cellist, Janos Starker, I think is very appropriate; 'Our jobs as musicians is to transmit emotion, not display it.' And that's the process we're working through," says Clausen.

The 30 minute piece runs a gamut of emotions.

"The ending of the piece is based on the traditional text of the plea for mercy, 'Kyrie eleison', 'Christe eleison', 'Lord have mercy', 'Christ have mercy', and it's a rather impassioned plea for peace and understanding," says Clausen.

Rene Clausen's "Memorial" will debut Friday at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Moorhead. The Choir and orchestra will then fly to New York for a performance Saturday.

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