By George Basler

Back in 2020, the Binghamton Downtown Singers were mere months away from performing Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem for their spring concert. But COVID-19 forced a cancellation. 

Now, two years later, the community choir is preparing to finally perform Fauré’s masterwork as the centerpiece of its “Remember and Rejoice” concert at 7:30 p.m. June 4 at Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City.

The concert is aptly titled, said Marisa Crabb, the Downtown Singers’ artistic director. It’s a remembrance of what the community has gone through for the past two years and a rejoicing that “we’re coming out of it,” she noted.

The June 4 concert will be broken into two parts. Crabb will conduct the 57-member choir in the seven-movement Requiem as well as Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine. Guest conductor Peter Sicilian will lead the chorus in four short pieces:  Shenandoah, arranged by Derric Johnson; Seal Lullaby by Eric Whitaker; Prayer of St. Francis by Allen Pote, and Hosanna, Hosanna by Glenn Burleigh.

Crabb said she initially approached Sicilian, a local voice coach, teacher and performer, in 2018, because she wanted the Downtown Singers to experience some great teaching and a different repertoire of vocal music.

“In the professional sense, the choir wanted the experience of working with two conductors,” she said, emphasizing the June 4 concert will give the choir the chance to show off its versatility.

Fauré, who lived from 1845 to 1924, was one of the foremost French composers of his generation with a musical style that influenced many 20th century composers.

According to the, his Requiem “is unique. The anguish, loss, and horrors of Death and Judgment Day are left by the wayside.  Fauré concentrates of the true meaning of the word ‘Requiem,’ or ‘rest.’ His Requiem is about peaceful acceptance and release, and the music is serene, elevating, comforting.”

Crabb calls the piece “heart-wrenching” and “beautiful.” While some arrangements of the Requiem have bassoons, horns and trumpets added to the original scoring, the Downtown Singers will perform with a small chamber orchestra. Crabb said prefers the chamber version because it showcases the “richness of the lower strings.” That “richness” emphasizes the beauty of the piece, she said.

Featured soloists will be Eva Mihalik, soprano, and Dr. Brad Hougham, baritone. Hougham is a voice teacher and associate provost at Ithaca College; Mihalik is a student at Maine-Endwell High School.

Crabb believes having a high school student sing the soprano part adds an extra dimension to the concert. “The youthful voice is appropriate because it was originally performed by a boys’ choir,” she said.

For his part, Sicilian picked the four short pieces to reflect different styles of music, from gospel to a more impressionist compositions, Crabb said. All four will have piano accompaniment. 

The upcoming concert will mark the second time the Downtown Singers have performed Fauré’s Requiem. The first time was in 1994 when Alan Crabb, the co-founder of the Downtown Singers and Crabb’s late husband, conducted a performance at Centenary Chenango United Methodist Church (now the Landmark Church) in downtown Binghamton. The choir also traveled to La Teste-de-Buch, France, to perform the piece as part of the Sister Cities International Program.

“For me, the (June 4) performance is nostalgic. It brings back a different time,” Crabb said.

IF YOU GO: The Downtown Singers’ spring concert will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial Methodist Church,308 Main St., Johnson City. General admission seating is $15. For tickets, call 607-875-4371, visit or email Tickets also are available from members of the Downtown Singers.

For the safety of the audience and performers, all audience members will be required to be masked.

For more information, visit

This project is made possible with public funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Earlville Opera House. Additional support for the Broome SCR Program graciously provided by the Stewart W. and Willma C. Hoyt Foundation, Inc. Funding also was provided in part by a project grant from the Broome County Arts Council’s United Cultural Fund.