- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2001

Washington Chorus Music Director Robert Shafer hopes music can supplement the healing begun by church services throughout Washington after the Sept. 11 assault on the United States.
Mr. Shafer's Grammy-winning chorus is putting on a free concert Wednesday to comfort those impacted by the terrorist attacks and raise donations for families of the victims of the attack on the Pentagon.
"Music is an abstract agent of comfort when words can't explain things," Mr. Shafer says.
The Washington Chorus' Memorial Concert will be held at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast.
The Requiem of Gabriel Faure will be performed by soloists Aime Sposato, soprano, and Byron Jones, baritone. The concert also will feature works by Brahms and Vaughan Williams, among others, performed by the choir of the Basilica under the direction of Peter Latona.
The performance will feature Shrine organist and carillonneur Robert Grogan.
Among the scheduled speakers is former Secretary of Defense William Perry.
Donations gathered during the concert will go to the Washington Family Relief Fund, which gives aid to the Pentagon victims' families. The fund was established by WTOP Radio, ABC 7 and Riggs Bank.
The reasons to stage such a concert were numerous, Mr. Shafer says.
"There hadn't been a major church memorial concert" since the tragedy, says Mr. Shafer, an artist-in-residence and professor of Music at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va.
The attack also struck close to the chorus' heart.
Several singers work at the Pentagon and were on site when the hijacked plane crashed into the government office.
"I thought it was important to not only help the city but the singers, as well," says Mr. Shafer, the chorus' music director since 1970.
He calls the Requiem the "most comforting" piece he could think of, and the first and only work he considered for the event.
"It was the first piece to come to mind if you're going to pick a piece to depict the feelings," he says of the Requiem, written in the early 20th century in Paris. "Hopefully, it won't be a concert that revives the pain."
"Everybody is doing music that is most associated with mourning," he continues. The Requiem selection invokes a similar mood but also provides a sense of resolution he believes is needed.
"They can transcend the pain into some kind of peace," he says of the audience.
The chorus, which tours around the globe, earned a Grammy Award in 2000 for best choral performance for its recording of Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem."
The group's familiarity with the popular Faure Requiem will help with the rushed rehearsal schedule.
"It's a very busy time," he says of the chorus, which is coming off an appearance at the similarly themed Sept. 24 concert at the Kennedy Center.
Mr. Shafer is focused on bringing what promises to be a passionate evening of music together on short notice and under duress.
"The first rehearsal after the tragedy was emotional," he says.
His thoughts also are with the victims of the tragedies and on how quickly the country has unified in the face of adversity.
With all the recent talk of how selfless World War II-era citizens proved to be during the 1940s, he thinks today's Americans have gotten short shrift.
"I think this is a great generation, too," he says.

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