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Composer's notes


The work I have created is unusual  in its concept of being a Requiem for the Living rather than for the dead.  It does not contain the words “dona, eis, requiem, aeternam, sempiternam “ or other words specific to requiems for the dead.  

Instead it challenges, expands and enriches the requiem tradition by targeting survivors, in this specific case and for this specific cause, children who have been orphaned by the AIDS pandemic.

I plan to mount the Requiem for the Living in concerts to raise funds for these orphans and others who have suffered life-shattering loss.

To the composition and the composer’s process then…

Verdi’s Requiem ends on Libera Me.  Requiem for the Living takes this as a point of departure.
As a composer of a requiem, I am writing within a tradition : Mozart, Faure, Brahms, Durufle, Verdi etc.
Latin, English, other languages: The requiem as a mass for the dead traditionally had a Latin text.
Requiem for the Living incorporates Latin, English, (for contemporary purposes, the vernacular), Zulu and other African languages including Afrikaans and a touch of French and Greek for specific reference.

Via reference to many cultures in language as well as musical styles and instrumentation the work is a deliberately inclusive process. The text outlines a progression from the individual to the group, a progression from isolation and alienation towards inclusion and embracing. (from Libera Me to the Sanctus and final Benediction).

This is also a personal journey of transcendence, with focus on the child and on regaining the child spirit; rediscovering the original wholeness of the self, coming back to life, regaining consciousness and connectedness.

When I started the sketches for the overall contour of the musical “journey” I was re-reading Murray Shafer’s book “The Tuning of the World’, in which he describes the contour and  textures of everyday outdoor sounds. Amphibian, birdlife and animal calls gradually intensified and then died away during the period from dawn to dusk.  At certain times there was more activity from some than from others, and the many layers had an ebb and flow which I have freely mirrored in Requiem for the Living.  

The “dawn to dusk” contour is not mapped  literally in the work but certain images may be comprehending the whole.   Libera Me and Benedictus begin and end with minimal resources.  The words of  T.S. Eliot (1888 -1965) define this for me: “We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time”.  Approximately midway the Dies Irae sears the listener with the relentless midday of a desert.  Sanctus 1 & 2 are like a refulgent sunset with clouds turning molten oranges and pinks. The Benedictus leads us into the blessed cool of the night.

While I was busy constructing the text and parts of the music I experienced a sensation rather like “pins and needles”, as if I was coming alive again after being dead. It has been a journey for me from the depths of years of chronic depression, back to a sense of inner peace. Shortly after completing the work I had  a vivid dream about beautiful harmonies. Upon waking I realized that the dream was an indication that I had found my inner harmony back, which I had lost many years previously.
Writing the requiem and thereby confronting ancient symbolic values helped me to re-integrate parts of the psyche which had become “out of order”.

A passage taken from The Grail Legend written by Emma Jung,the wife of the famous psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Gustav Jung explains:

“When a myth is enacted in a ritual performance or….when a fairy tale is told, the healing factor within it acts on whoever has taken an interest in it and allowed himself to be moved by it in such a way that through this participation he will be brought into connection with an archetypal form of the situation and by this means enabled to put himself “into order”.

Archetypal dreams can have the same effect. Equally, this putting oneself “into order” or “becoming one with a higher will” is the content of religious experience.”

The theme of the Requiem for the Living engages an issue at the heart of the Christian faith, namely recognising and overcoming our own wounds and limitations (inner spiritual death) in pursuit of personal healing and compassion for humankind, in particular the needy and suffering (via spiritual re-birth made possible by the love of Jesus Christ).

It draws attention to the plight of all children who suffer abuse, neglect and tragic illness visited upon them by adults in society. In a broader context the work supports the bereaved: children who have lost their parents, and parents who are searching for their missing children, visiting their graves, sitting in hospital rooms watching them suffer, and others who have no children but long for one.


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