The official opening of Chautauqua Institution on the first Sunday of each season offers a time to remember Chautauquans who have passed away since the previous season. Although the service provides the opportunity to remember and reflect, it left an “awkwardness,” Jared Jacobsen said, about the people connected to Chautauqua who don’t necessarily spend time at the Institution.
That hole led to the development of an additional service each season dedicated to honoring those who are connected to the lives of Chautauquans, said Jacobsen, Chautauqua Institution organist. The Sacred Song Service, titled “In Remembrance — A Community Sing of Fauré’s ‘Requiem,’ ” will take place at 8 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater.
“Books of memory” have been stationed in the denominational houses across the grounds all season, and people are encouraged to fill the books with names of those who are important to them, especially the names of people who have passed away, Jacobsen said. Those books will be arranged around the Amp’s stage with votive candles, and people will be encouraged to come onto the stage to fill them with additional names.
“It’s somebody who needs to be remembered in some special way,” he said.
The service will be a sing-along of Gabriel Fauré’s “Requiem,” which Jacobsen has performed at Chautauqua for several years. Sing-alongs are, by nature, messy and rowdy, Jacobsen said — and he has done them at the Institution in the past, with George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” — and some of his colleagues aren’t fond of the sloppiness.
“One of my more snide friends said, ‘What are you going to do next as a sing-along, the Fauré ‘Requiem?’ ” Jacobsen said. “I couldn’t get that comment out of my mind.”
Requiems are large-scale works about death, life, transfiguration and the Christian journey, Jacobsen said.
“Gabriel Fauré’s ‘Requiem’ is intensely personal,” he said. “It uses personal reflections and even the music, the way it’s written, is quite tender.”
Fauré’s work is warm, personal, tender and intimate, but also accessible, Jacobsen said. And although the congregation typically likes to go all out when participating in sing-alongs, Chautauquans tend to sing “Requiem” softly and gently, he said, as if they don’t want to mess anything up.
“It put a glow in the air. It put a halo, if you will, over this building this night,” Jacobsen said. “It became a graced moment in the life of this place.”
Lives go on between Chautauqua seasons, lives that can be filled with pain. Jacobsen said coming together and reflecting on issues such as life and death can help bring the Chautauqua community together.
“It’s not all a happy place to the point of being an amusement park. This is a lived, shared community, and part of community is to be together when unthinkable things happen,” he said. “It’s a night of great poignancy. It’s a night of great tenderness. It’s a night of thinking about great concepts.”