Marcelo Lehninger leads Grand Rapids Symphony and Chorus in monumental Verdi Requiem, Nov. 17-18

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Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
Senior Manager of Communications and Media Relations
616.454.9451 ext. 139

GRAND RAPIDS, MI., November, 7, 2017 – One of the best operas Giuseppe Verdi ever wrote calls for no costumes or sets. And one of his best-known sacred works is seldom performed in church. What’s more, both are one in the same.

Verdi’s Requiem has no operatic adventures involving heroes and villains, but it still features some of the most dramatic music ever written by the composer of Rigoletto, La Traviata, Otello and Aida.

Grand Rapids Symphony Music Director Marcelo Lehninger says the work that’s popular with audiences is a particular favorite of his as well.

“It’s one of the pieces I enjoy conducting the most,” he said.

Lehninger, who is in his second season with the Grand Rapids Symphony, will lead the third concert of the 2017-18 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, November 17-18, in DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW.

Guest soprano Julianna Di Giacomo, mezzo soprano Suzanne Hendrix, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey and bass Raymond Aceto Guest artist sponsor is the Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

The 140-voice Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus will be joined by the 40-voice Calvin College Capella, both directed by Pearl Shangkuan, a professor of music at Calvin College.

All told, there will be upwards of 270 musicians on stage for the performances.

Concerts on Friday and Saturday will be dedicated to the memory of Helen DeVos, the Grand Rapids Symphony’s dear friend and greatest champion, who died in October. A member of the Symphony’s Board of Directors for nearly 20 years and an honorary board member afterwards, Helen DeVos had been awarded the Grand Rapids Symphony’s highest honor, its BRAVO! Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Grand Rapids Symphony musicians and staff will wear yellow ribbons in Mrs. DeVos’s memory. Music Director Marcelo Lehninger and the symphony’s principal first and second violins and principal viola and cello, which together comprise the Grand Rapids Symphony’s DeVos String Quartet, all will wear yellow rose boutonnieres or corsages at both performances.

Verdi, who was spiritual, but not a regular churchgoer, poured his most mature vocal and dramatic gifts into his Requiem. The traditional Mass for the Dead in the Roman Catholic liturgy takes its title from the opening phrase, “Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,” which translates as, “Grant them eternal rest, O Lord.”

Verdi began the work to honor his operatic colleague, Gioachino Rossini, though he never completed it. Years later, Verdi finished the piece to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Italian poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni.

In Verdi’s mind, a big man needed a big sendoff, so he composed a work for double chorus, no fewer than 16 brass instruments, and a pounding bass drum that never goes away.

Portions of the 85 minute-work are well-known in popular culture. The dramatic “Die Irae” or “Day of Wrath” sequence is among the loudest musical moments in the orchestra repertoire. It’s frequently heard in movies, on TV and in commercials including the films “Mad Max: Fury Road” in 2015 and “Django Unchained” in 2012 and in the TV series “X Factor.”

Grand Rapids Symphony last performed Verdi’s Requiem in May 2010 to end its 2009-10 season.

Prior to that, the Grand Rapids Symphony sang Verdi’s Requiem in November 2001, just weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which gave added poignancy to the “Libre Me” section, with its first line that translates as “Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fateful day.”

  • Inside the Music, a free, pre-concert, multi-media presentation sponsored by BDO USA, will be held before each performance at 7 p.m. in the DeVos Place Recital Hall.

  • The complete Verdi’s Requiem program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, March 25, 2018, at 1 p.m. on Blue Lake Public Radio 88.9 FM or 90.3 FM.


Tickets start at $18 and are available at the GRS box office, weekdays 9 am-5 pm, at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.)

Tickets are available at the DeVos Place ticket office, weekdays 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at

Full-time students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the GRS Student Tickets program, sponsored by Comerica and Calvin College. This is a MySymphony360 eligible concert.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet and sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which was held in March 2017 and returns in 2019.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the website or

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This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.