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SANCTUS 1 & 2


Sanctus 1 & 2 are worship prayers for antiphonal choirs, call singer, kudu horns, djembe, praise singer(s)/poets in indigenous SA and /or international languages interpreting specifically chosen praise psalms texts, and full orchestral forces. The two “Sanctuses” frame the In Paradisum  and their overall mood is joyous and celebratory, affirming life.

Arguably the most spectacular movement in the Requiem for the Living,  Sanctus 1 & 2 are full of local SA flavour mixed with international elements. The djembe (talking drum) and kudu horns combine with the traditional praise singers intoning psalms over the orchestral music. These re-create an ancient world of religious reflection where inspired poems, drums and ram’s horns called people to prayer and reminded them of the Divine creative presence.

In this section of the work, strings provide the underlying chordal structures supporting the antiphonal choirs. Playing a very slow kwela rhythm (rather in the manner of the tortoises dancing the can-can in Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals), theirs is a slow, cosmic dance in which primordial creatures pop up briefly and quirkily on piano, woodwind (including saxophone and contrabassoon), harp and percussion. Harmonies are predominantly major upon major without deliberate diatonic progression. These are very accessible to sing but require choral soprano voices accustomed to maintaining stamina and rounded vocal colour in high ranges. The call singer (high tenor, written at pitch) could be replaced by an alto or a baritone.

In the intervening sections, choirs and brass with tubular bells and pitched percussion combine in homorhythmic, powerful bursts which are gradually built up during each successive intervention, culminating in a “calm before the hosanna“ progression of close harmony chords delicately outlined by piano and harp. The final tumultuous tutti is brought to a close after ululations and dancing, by a meditative amen.  Although Sanctus 1 & 2 are written in incremental layers, the rhythmic framework is so straightforward that the main challenge of putting them together lies in the balancing of textures.

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