REQUIEM - an explanation for yet another in an already overused choral form
Date: April 13, 2014
With so many REQUIEM mass settings in the choral music world, I am sure most composers consider it a DEAD END as far as ever getting it performed or even noticed. The very word, REQUIEM, conjures up dollar signs for conductors since they usually require instrumentalists and other added costs, and so performances happen less and less as budgets tighten. For this reason, I began thinking that a REQUIEM setting that was for unaccompanied mixed chorus (my preferred medium), might be something that could catch on if it was well written and didn't bore the pants off the typical audience member.
Not having a deceased person for which to write the thing did not deter me. I did, however, start to think of people that maybe deserved one in retrospect. I don't remember the circumstances now, but I landed on the notion of writing it in remembrance of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The Christ I have in mind may be a bit different than the one in your mind. I picture a man who, knowing his life is nearing it's end, is growing nostalgic and can be found watching the sunset and taking in the bittersweetness of it all. The pain and bliss at the same time. He can be found in this meditative state again at dawn as the sun blasts over the horizon. More and more he would find moments to steal away in search of peace in the midst of chaos. The first movement of the REQUIEM is the portrayal of this. In the second number I wanted to stray from the norm and asked my lyricist and friend, Ingrid Showalter Swift, to pen something new that would fit in the middle of a three part work. After a short period of communication, she came back with the text REQUIEM: You Having Walked This Earth. To me, she hit a home run, and I was off and running with the writing. To close I decided that this Christ would evolve. He would, as some have hypothesized, travel the globe, and sample some of all that humankind had to offer. In turn, he would try to teach us that we could be just like him. He would teach us to open our eyes and see paradise all around us. The Tibetan Book of the Dead was chosen as a source for this last number and portrays the time of crossing over and the release from all suffering. Musically speaking, the score offers challenges while still being accesible high school, college, and professional choirs. The second number features a short soprano solo.
At the risk of boring your pants off....here is the full recording by Matt Curtis of Choral Tracks, LLC.REQUIEM - by Joseph Gentry Stephens