In 2010, Jared Jacobsen created an annual musical occasion to remember those who had died since the last Chautauqua season ended, and those who had ties to the Institution in some way.
“There are a series of spiral-bound notebooks that are all over the grounds, in denominational houses and other places where people gather,” said Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. “It’s an opportunity to write names and little remembrances in the book of anybody that was connected to you. If you want to remember them here, you put them in the book.”
These “books of memory” are typically collected at the end of Week Seven, Jacobsen said, and placed in a circle on the Amphitheater stage along with a candle.
At 8 p.m. Sunday in the Amp, Jacobsen will lead “In Remembrance,” a Sacred Song Service that will feature the Chautauqua Choir and the Chautauqua Music Camp Orchestra.
“People are invited before the service to come up and add names if they want,” Jacobsen said. “We collect all these people, in our collective memory, and we remember them in music by singing ‘Requiem in D Minor,’ by Gabriel Fauré.”
Jacobsen said that composers often write works dedicated to those who have died, and that a requiem is a “set of prayers and music that comes out of the Roman Catholic tradition.”
“It’s an irresistible target for most composers, because there’s a lot of drama in the story,” Jacobsen said. “Typically you’re talking about the day of wrath and the day of mourning, and the devil coming in and scything down the people who didn’t make it to heaven. That makes it an irresistible target for musicians who like to pull in the tubas and the timpani.”
But the Fauré Requiem is interesting because it doesn’t adhere to the typical Catholic pattern, according to Jacobsen.
“Nobody really knows why he wrote it,” he said. “His parents passed away about two years before he started working on it. So that might have been in the back of his head, too. As far as we know, it wasn’t a sudden death for either of his parents, so it might have been something he could predict.”
Since he often invites the congregation to sing along, Jacobsen said he can’t help but compare audience reactions to the music to another crowd favorite: German composer George Handel’s “Messiah.”
“People love to sing pedal to the metal, balls-out, ‘Messiah,’ ” he said. “The ‘Requiem’ had a different effect on people. They figured out that this was tender and gentle, and when people sang it here, they didn’t do ‘pedal to the metal.’ ”
Part of the allure to attending this service, according to Jacobsen, is the presence of the Chautauqua Music Camp Orchestra.
The orchestra is made up of high school musicians from around the area, as well as Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestras, which spends a week in residence at Chautauqua.
“The kids get the opportunity to play in a wonderful building with an organ and a well-trained choir,” Jacobsen said. “They’re conducted by Eddie Leonard, who’s young and very dynamic.”
Though some events at Chautauqua are dedicated to remembering only Chautauquans who have died since the previous season ended, this service is inclusive and encompassing, and Jacobsen said he is “very proud of what this Week Eight service has morphed into.”