The Benjamin Britten Peace Project

by John Birge, Minnesota Public Radio
February 28, 2012

St. Paul, Minn. — This Thursday night, March 1st, the University of Minnesota School of Music commemorates the 50th anniversary of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem.

Britten's War Requiem is one of the most powerful anti-war statements in all of music — all of art, really. Britten wrote it for the reconsecration of England's Coventry Cathedral, which was bombed by the Germans in World War Two. The ruins still stand today as a reminder of the cost of war, as does Britten's War Requiem, which draws on anti-war poetry from Wilfrend Owen, who died in World War One.

Britten's War Requiem is a huge piece that requires two orchestras, multiple choirs, and 3 solo singers. So it was a natural opportunity for conductor Mark Russell Smith to form a collaboration with his students at the U, his professional orchestra in the Quad Cities, and student musicians overseas at the conservatory in Detmold, Germany.

Russell says the work has had a profound effect in teaching his students a musical masterwork, and connecting their 21st century lives to a deeper understanding of the suffering, sacrifices and triumphs of their grandparents and great-grandparents.

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