School of Music, Theatre, & Dance Dean Aaron Dworkin introduced the symphony at Hill Auditorium on Tuesday.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - 2:27am
In remembrance of the victims of the nation's largest mass shooting last Sunday in Orlando, several hundred students, alumni, faculty and Ann Arbor community members packed Hill Auditorium for a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. The event, titled “Requiem for Orlando,” drew a somber crowd to mourn the victims of the attack and their families and to stand in solidarity against the hatred behind the tragedy.
In a span of just 48 hours, Austin Stewart, a musicology graduate student at the University of Michigan, and Colin Knapp, a University alum who received his bachelor’s in music in 2014, enlisted nearly 200 volunteer singers and musicians to perform Mozart’s Requiem for the event.
Prior to the beginning of the performance, several guest speakers took the stage to pay their respects to the lives lost and to voice words of strength against social injustice and violence fueled by hate. Guest speakers included University President Mark Schlissel, Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor, School of Music, Theatre & Dance Dean Aaron Dworkin and LGTBQ community icon Jim Toy.
Schlissel offered sympathy to all those hurt, directly and indirectly, by the tragic events that occurred last Sunday. He also mentioned the Ann Arbor’s community’s impressive ability to come together and show support in such a short notice.
“In the wake of such tragedy, it is heartening to know that we have the ability to come together as a community,” Schlissel said. “We are artists and activists, leaders and students, faculty, staff and community members.”
Schlissel finally noted the importance of upholding values in the aftermath of violence.
“We must remember that our differences are precious,” Schlissel said. “That those of all religions, ethnicities, beliefs, sexual orientations and gender identities make us a complete community,”
Mayor Taylor offered advice on how to interpret Sunday’s violence, as well as how to move forward.
“It is our first instinct to view these killings as a senseless slaughter, and in one respect this surely is true,” he said. “The risk is in attributing too much cultural meaning to the actions of a solitary killer, for this amplifies and gives power to the despicable.”
Taylor took a distinctly pointed tone, condemning and calling for action on what he viewed as a lack of gun control, and also called for acceptance of the Muslim community. Taylor received two separate standing ovations from the crowd, though some members of the audience shook their heads in disagreement when Taylor condemned the role of guns in American society.
“I believe that what we can do is that we can live our lives. We can live our lives with a renewed commitment to speak out against and defeat the notion that a gun-riddled America is a safer America," Taylor said, as he was interrupted by spontaenous applause. "We must have a renewed commitment to live our lives with openness, pride and joy, to defend and affirm the full membership of our Muslim brothers and sisters in our communities large and small”.
Jim Toy, described by Taylor as an LGBTQ icon and community legend, concluded the speeches. Toy asked audience members to hold hands with one another and speak words of equality and peace.
Following the introductory speeches, the performance of Mozart’s Requiem commenced, performed by students and faculty from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, as well as local musicians. The ensemble, composed of 50 instrumentalists and 135 singers, was assembled with just 48 hours’ notice. The piece was conducted by Kevin Fitzgerald, a University alum who received his master’s degree in orchestral conducting in 2015.