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Dr. Joe Stanford, right, artistic director of Escondido Choral Arts Foundation, will be conducting a performance of Johannes Brahms’ “A German Requiem” Jan. 29. Stanford has become a doppelganger of sorts to the German composer. Courtesy photo
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Brahms look-alike brings composer’s music to life

ESCONDIDO — Johannes Brahms is alive and well in North San Diego County — sort of.  Brahms’ doppelganger and long-time San Diego musician and educator, Dr. Joe Stanford has loved the composer’s music for over 40 years.

Stanford will conduct the Center Chorale and the Pacific Coast Chorale with the Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Brahms’ great masterwork, “A German Requiem” Jan. 29, at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

This vocal and orchestral tour-de-force is a large-scale work that established Brahms as a major composer.

“It is rare to be able to hear this great work with 100 voices and full, professional symphony orchestra right here in our own community,” said Stanford.

The work was also revolutionary for its time. Unlike traditional requiems, Brahms’ was not written for the dead — but for the living. It was also written in German rather than Latin.

“The requiem is serious in that it is about our mortality and mourning, coupled with exuberant expressions of faith and hope. It is also about joy and our connection to each other,” said Stanford.

Maybe that’s why Brahms referred to his work as a “human requiem,” according to Stanford.  While Brahms’ requiem is a spiritual work at its core, it is a piece of music that is accessible to all.  “The expression of text and power of the music reaches into our hearts no matter what our religious preference may be,” said Stanford.

The performance will also include videotaped footage of the performers sharing their feelings about what Brahms’ requiem means to them.

Stanford, a former Palomar College music teacher and currently artistic director of Escondido Choral Arts Foundation, was pleased to introduce this great music to so many singers for the first time.

“It takes real vocal stamina and focus to perform the Requiem,” he said. “This concert fits the goal of Escondido Choral Arts to educate, challenge and expand our musical horizons at the same time we are bringing great music to our community.”

It is also a piece of music that is very special to him.  “It’s stunningly beautiful and its emotion lifts me. It is a very spiritual piece for me personally,” said Stanford.

Tickets to Brahms’ “A German Requiem” are available at (800) 988-4253 or online at  For more info about Escondido Choral Arts Foundation, visit