When I arrived at the Synod House of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine last night, the first thing I encountered was a long line at the door. A really long line. Reason: everyone attending that evening's performance of human requiem, which opens the 7th edition of the White Light Festival this week, had to check their bag before entering the space.
Once inside the intimate, gothic hall, I was additionally asked to remove my shoes. There was no program, no seating, no real stage, save for an abbreviated altar at the far end. (The Synod House was also the site of 2014's Curlew River, where the audience sat on risers on either side of the nave.) The 200 or so people in attendance awkwardly milled about, wondering just when and where the performance was going to take place.
Suddenly, the lights went down, and the music - Brahms' piano four hands version of his German Requiem - emerged from all sides. Singers, dressed inconspicuously in street clothes, began to move slowly through the space, laying their hands on audience members as they passed. Soon, it became apparent that the 70-odd singers - all members of the Berlin Radio Choir - had committed the entire 70 minute score to memory.