AN ENGLISH REQUIEM
This is my latest work; "An English Requiem" for Soprano and Tenor soloists,
SATB choir and Chamber Orchestra. It was performed for the first time on Sunday June 30th 2019 at All Saints' Church, Pocklington as part of "A Concert for Peace". The church was full and the work was received with enthusiasm. The concert was recorded by David Rose and below you can access this recording movement by movement.
An English Requiem is now available for performance by Choral Societies nationwide.
An English Requiem sets portions of the Latin text of the Requiem Mass alongside lines in English taken from the works of four great poets plus an anonymous one.There are nine movements.
Introit/Kyrie – (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
Dies Irae – (John Clare)
Sanctus -Benedictus (William Wordsworth
Requiescat (Oscar Wilde)
Pax – Anon
Agnus Dei - Lux Aeterna - Libera me (Oscar Wilde)
In Paradisum (Christopher Smart)
Notes: Audio buttons may take some time to load. Please be patient.
The English texts are taken from seven poems: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, I am by John Clare, Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth, Requiescat and The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde and A Song to David by Christopher Smart. The seventh poem, "Have all my heart and be in Peace" is adapted from an anonymous old English poem. The Latin texts are all taken from the traditional words of the Requiem Mass. In setting the words I wanted the English poems to complement, if somewhat obliquely, the traditional Latin liturgy. Sometimes the texts are set standing alone; sometimes you will hear Latin words and English words sung simultaneously. The overall effect is not macaronic, however: I felt that the English poetry should be something like a meditation on the Latin texts simlilar to the way one’s thoughts may “wander” whilst attending a requiem mass (at least my thought wander!).
The idea of creating an English Requiem in this way dates back to around 1980 when I composed "Have all my Heart". A fellow teacher suggested using English poetry alongside the Latin Liturgy – no doubt prompted by the way Britten’s masterful War Requiem combines war poems with the Latin words. I even went so far as choosing texts for my projected English Requiem, but that was as far as it went and my draft libretto lay hidden in a box of music manuscripts for over 35 years. But vague ideas stayed with me, especially for setting the Smart and the Coleridge texts, until I felt ready to tackle the project. One other movement, the Wilde setting from The Ballad of Reading Gaol had an earlier life as part of my stage musical The Canterville Ghost written and performed in 1998 and again in 2012. In terms of the music there are a few themes which occur periodically throughout the Requiem as a whole; for example the first theme heard on a solo cello which acts as an idée fixe for the work as a whole and there is also a whole-tone melody with augmented harmony which occurs whenever God in mentioned either in Latin or in English