Since its annual spring concert falls on the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the Festival Celebration Choir will mark the occasion with a memorial celebration to honor Americans who have died for their country in wartime.

The Festival Celebration Choir is made up of 70 singers from 40 Christian churches. They will be backed by a 20-piece orchestra. The all-Mozart concert will take place June 6, 7 p.m., at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany.

In addition, letters, speeches and diaries of those who fought and died in American wars since the Revolution will be read, and violinist Michael Emery from the Schenectady Symphony will perform three selections from the film "Schindler's List."

Hopeful words

"There is a lot of hope in the readings -- a lot of hope and mercy," said Deacon J. Neil Hook of St. Margaret Mary's Church in Albany. He is the concert's director.

"We have young men and women who are dying" in Iraq, Deacon Hook noted. "We don't want to forget them -- those who were called by their country and have given their lives. We want to remember the sacrifices given by the men and women who died in battle."

'Requiem'

Mozart's intricate "Requiem" is a personal favorite of Deacon Hook. The Latin text "can be a little daunting" for those unfamiliar with the language, he said. "It's a difficult piece, and it's not easy to learn. [But the choir] ran with it."

The "Requiem" was commissioned in 1791 to be performed on the anniversary of the death of a count's wife. When Mozart died, he had completed only nine of 13 sections; the score was finished by collaborators.

"The Requiem was the Mass said at the time of the funeral or commendation of the deceased," said Deacon Hook. "It talks about death, yes, but also the promise of eternal life."

Veterans invited

Deacon Hook hopes that veterans from all wars will attend the concert. He has enlisted several veterans to read some of the selections and has sent notices to every veterans' organization in the Capital District.

"For those who are veterans of World War II, it will be a memorial of the service they performed and a sign of our gratitude towards them," he explained. "We hope to help them remember -- and remember their colleagues."

(The D-Day concert will begin with welcoming remarks from New York State Lt. Governor Mary Donahue and an invocation by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard. A prayer of commendation will be offered by Rev. William Pape, Cathedral rector. Tickets to the concert are $14 for adults; $8 for students and senior citizens. For more information, call Deacon Hook at 869-0602.)

(6/3/04)