Vallejo Choral Society presents In Aeternum
featuring Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor

with Orchestra and Guest Soloists
Conducted by JULIA MORRIS, VCS Artistic Director

Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor, also known as Missa pro defuncto Archiepiscopo Sigismondo, has been largely overlooked throughout history, despite its excellent craftsmanship and beauty. Austrian composer of the Classical period, Johann Michael Haydn was the younger brother of the Joseph Haydn we know and perform regularly today. Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor is a fabulous illustration of a Classical era Requiem Mass — so much so that it influenced Mozart’s Requiem in D minor. There are several melodic and rhythmic ideas that Mozart later incorporated into his work. Perhaps due to these similarities, Haydn’s Requiem has been overlooked since the premier of Mozart’s final work.

The VCS Symphonic Choir will also perform Beloved, by Andrea Daly, and the Chamber Choir will perform Suite Remembrance, by Melissa Dunphy.

Saturday, May 18, 7 PM
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
120 E J St., Benicia

Sunday, May 19, 3 PM
Springbrook Masonic Temple
101 Temple Way, Vallejo

TICKETS: $35 in advance, $45 at door


Artistic Director Julia Morris Interview

The following article appeared 5/7/2024 in the Times~Herald
By gqlshare |
PUBLISHED: May 7, 2024 at 3:24 p.m. | UPDATED: May 7, 2024 at 3:25 p.m.

Vallejo Choral Society bids the season farewell with bittersweet “In Aeternum”

From 20th century American poetry to Shakespeare, jazz and now Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C Minor, Julia Morris has led the Vallejo Choral Society through a versatile and unique season. As she concludes her first year as Artistic Director, it is fitting that Morris ends on a reflective note while still maintaining a flair for the unexpected.

“It’s oddly bittersweet for me to come to the end of my first season already with the Choral Society,” said Morris, reflecting on the music-making and community building of the last year. After a brief pause, she added, “I don’t know why it needs to be bitter, maybe it’s just entirely sweet.”

The concert’s program matches Morris’s nuanced feelings in its complex portrayals of grief. “All of these pieces talk about death or the afterlife in some way,” said Morris. At times joyous and at others mournful, the program showcases several perspectives throughout “In Aeternum.”

Haydn’s dramatic yet subtle Requiem is a notable precursor to Mozart’s famous Requiem in D Minor which followed 20 years later. In selecting this rarely performed piece, Morris pays homage to Haydn in his own right, out of the shadow of his more-famous brother, Joseph.

“I think concert-goers who love the Mozart Requiem will be pleasantly surprised to hear a lot of musical ideas they might recognize written in Michael Haydn’s Requiem,” said Morris. These overlaps showcase the communication that would have existed between the two artists living and writing in the same city.

The majority of similarities between the two Requiems are rhythmic. “Haydn writes the chorus’s entrance with slow, delicious suspensions over a syncopated rhythm in the violins,” explained Morris. Mozart would later emulate this for his first vocal entrance in his own Requiem.

By pairing the Requiem with unlikely pieces like Andrea Daly’s “Beloved,” Morris draws her own parallels between composers.

Much like Mozart and Haydn’s overlapping origin, Kenyon College proved to be a place of musical and personal intersection for Morris. It was Morris’ professor, Dr. Benjamin “Doc” Locke, who commissioned Kenyon alumna Daly to write a song in honor of his wife, Kay. Morris was inspired to incorporate the song in memory of Kay who died in 2020, remembering that love story as one of the greatest she ever witnessed.

“It is a love song but it also has commentaries that reach back to the overall theme of the program,” said Morris.

Conductor Julia Morris leads the Vallejo Choral Society in rehearsal. The Choral Society will perform their final concert for the season, “In Aeternum,” on May 18 and 19 in Benicia and Vallejo. (Contributed photo, Rebecca Gulick)

Four movements of contrasting memorial dances make up “Suite Remembrance,” by Melissa Dunphy. From a hopping jig to a lively folk dance, the theme of death is turned into something more upbeat. The last movement receives its text from Psalm 30 which reads, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing,” offering unexpected levity to the grieving process.

The program is further rounded out by “Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal” by Alice Parker, who Morris describes as a legend in the field. “This beloved arrangement is probably sung at one time by almost every chorus,” explained Morris.

This piece also serves as a special way to honor Parker who recently passed away in December. The song offers yet another angle of grief, this time from a first-person perspective of one looking into the afterlife. “It’s about knowing that death is approaching and being excited to see your loved ones who have gone before you,” said Morris.

From selecting the pieces to conducting them, Morris has become well-acquainted with the conclusive themes. “There are many stages of grief,” she said. “I think you eventually end up somewhere where you are happy to have had the experiences with someone. And it’s a part of death that I think doesn’t get explored often in a musical setting.”

As far as the chorus’s connection to the text, Morris say she hopes those conversations are happening. “That’s part of singing the music, feeling what you’re feeling and then sharing that with your community.”

Because the Requiem is in Latin and contains a large quantity of text, Morris will sometimes draw special attention to a certain affect they need to chase. “We can’t just sing the music just for the notes, we have to tell the story,” said Morris, a feat which often requires translation.

Haydn incorporates a lot of “text painting” which matches a musical phrase to the image portrayed by the text. For the chorus to evoke that, Morris explains that the dramatic descending arpeggio is there to accompany language about the gates of hell.

“Based on the change that happens when I direct them to dive a little deeper and sing from the heart rather than sing off the page, there is a big difference that happens in the way they sing it,” said Morris.

“The melodic choices and the complexity of the music can be very comforting for me,” said Valerie Nelson, a member of the Chamber Choir. In contrast to the Shakespeare Gala, Nelson said learning the different parts for this program have proven more difficult. “But every once in a while, a bigger section will come together and we’ll look around at each other in awe, like ‘Now I know what that was supposed to be’,” said Nelson.

“It’s really great to see how versatile the chorus is and how open they are to exploring so many corners of the choral repertoire,” said Morris, reflecting on how grateful she is for the way they embraced her this last year.


  • WHAT: Vallejo Choral Society “In Aeternum”
  • WHEN: May 18 at 7 p.m., May 19 at 3 p.m.
  • WHERE: May 18: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 120 E J St., Benicia, May 19: Springbrook Masonic Temple101 Temple Way, Vallejo.
  • TICKETS: Tickets: $35 in advance, $45 at door; Students are free. Visit