In mid-April 2002, as she slept, Annette Meriweather left her body and returned home to God. She had not been ill, and the autopsy indicated – simply – heart failure. Therefore, she did not suffer. What a gift for her pure soul, and what a consolation for those she left behind!
Annette passed away after nearly 30 years of friendship and extremely fruitful musical collaboration with Karlheinz Stockhausen, who discovered her in the early seventies through her laughter, her smile and her radiance in the lobby of a hotel in Milan. He had just returned from a performance of STIMMUNG at La Scala and saw and heard her, surrounded by admirers following a concert she had sung in Milan (which Stockhausen had not heard). On the spot, he asked for her name and address and soon after engaged her for STERNKLANG in 1975 and for SIRIUS in 1976, without having heard her sing a single note. Souls do not need auditions.
Annette was unique in every way: God gave her extraordinary vocal chords, but it was her own incomparably idealistic dedication, noble humility and hard work, combined with exemplary professionalism, which rendered her voice the perfect instrument to reveal a soul so sublime, so pure in her stunning conveyance of the music of Stockhausen.
During the 27 years of our friendship, whenever I was with Annette it was an elevating experience, both humanly and musically, and that it why it was so wonderful to be with her and to share the world of Stockhausen’s music. We were sisters in music, and soul sisters. We spent months and years rehearsing and then performing the various works world-wide, and we spent hours side-by-side on stage and backstage. Annette was one of the first members of the now large musical family of musicians which has grown around Stockhausen for the performance of his works, and we will all miss her, but our memories of her will always inspire us.
As Stockhausen looked at Annette in a happy photograph of him with the four soloists in SIRIUS, taken at the St. Louis Cloister in Aix-en-Provence during a rehearsal break for the world première of the complete, 90-minute SIRIUS in August 1977, he reflected, “Perhaps the most important thing is the spiritual children one leaves behind.” He meant the numerous works to which Annette had “given birth” since 1976 through performing their world premières, and which she then continued to nourish and to keep alive and healthy by her countless performances of these works world-wide.
For the thousands of people who heard and saw these live performances or who listen to the recordings of these works on CD and see and hear them on video, these works will always be linked to her stunningly beautiful voice and her radiance as a human being, whether as a “messenger from SIRIUS” or as Eve in her multifarious roles in Stockhausen’s opera LIGHT. She lives on in the music, in our ears and in our hearts.
(Illustration 2: Annette as Eve singing the final text of TUESDAY GREETING [PEACE GREETING] and the text of PEACE GREETING)
Annette is survived by her mother, who lives in Michigan City, Indiana, and she will be buried there. Immediately upon receiving the news of Annette’s passing, I called Annette’s mother to offer our condolences. It was she who consoled me: “The Lord has His ways, and His ways are the RIGHT ways!” Then, I called Nicholas Isherwood who teaches voice at Notre Dame, to inform him. He was shocked, because two weeks before he had had dinner with Annette in Rome. As it turns out, Michigan City is very close to Notre Dame, so he went to visit Annette’s mother. Afterwards, he wrote to me that they had had a wonderful visit, and that Annette’s mother was as ageless and as full of fun as Annette. Annette’s age was her best guarded secret: I’ll never forget when Matthias Hölle (bass) and Robert Gambill (tenor) tried to steal her passport from her dressing room just before a performance of MICHAEL’S YOUTH in Florence (1980) – to no avail!
For a memorial service which was held on May 5th in Rome by her many friends there, we were asked to send a video of Annette “in her glory”, photographs and any thing else we wanted to share with those attending the service, which was intended to be a celebration of her wonderful spirit.
The contents of our package included a personal message from Stockhausen written on the poster of the four soloists of SIRIUS singing and playing in the heavens: “To Annette Meriweather, our best singer.”
I also sent a video of PIETÀ for Flugelhorn, Soprano and Electronic Music, which she had performed in a concert version with Markus Stockhausen at the first Stockhausen Courses Kuerten in 1998. It is a scene of the opera TUESDAY from LIGHT, and I also included photos of this scene as it is staged in the opera, and the score (with Annette’s picture on the cover) in the materials I sent. Although there are many videos of Annette’s unforgettable performances, I chose this one of PIETÀ because she could be seen close-up. The text is so poignant and a fitting consolation and promising hope for all of us and ends with the words:
GOD, your breath,
gives you new life.
Annette, all of us and Stockhausen’s music will miss you, but we will try to imagine you – smiling, laughing and radiant in your well-deserved freedom – rather than to dwell on our own sense of loss and sadness. After all, we will meet again – in God’s eternal love.
Kürten, Pentecost 2002
(Illustration 4: Annette Meriweather, alias Angel of Music, Merriment and Magic, with two cherubs [Julika and Simon Stockhausen] in July 1976 on the way to Washington D.C. for the world première of SIRIUS, which was one of the gifts given by West Germany to the United States on the occasion of the American Bicentennial.)