by Kevin McLaughlin
The Sacred Veil, as one might expect from an hour-long work about death and grief, is not an easy listen. Eric Whitacre’s music, evocative and emotional, makes potent company with Charles Anthony Silvestri’s words, a chain of poems on the loss of his wife Julia Lawrence Silvestri (Julie), who died of ovarian cancer in 2005 at the age of 36. The inclusion of Julie’s own poetry, along with Whitacre’s, increases the impact.
On Friday, October 20 during a performance by The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, the Severance Music Center audience, perhaps expecting lighter fare, listened closely, though gloomily. Told through particularities — one couple’s experience of early love and childbirth, the young woman’s diagnosis, prognosis, and ultimately her death — Sacred Veil’s power lies in its wider applicability. The words, projected in supertitles above the stage, penetrated the heart; the music sealed the deal.