An English Requiem for the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed.
My local Anglican parish church holds a Requiem mass each year to celebrate All Souls' Day, officially the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. One year, our Choir sang a popular setting of the Latin Mass (though not a Requiem) for this service and it went so well we repeated it on subsequent years. This was lovely, but after five or more years of singing the same thing, we fancied a change.
At our annual meeting at the beginning of 2020, we were discussing how hard it was to find a suitable (and affordable!) replacement. One of my fellow choristers, knowing my interest in composition, nudged me and suggested I should have a go at writing one. I was a bit sceptical, and in any case I was starting work on a setting for Evensong, but the idea stayed with me. I finally started thinking seriously about it in April and began putting ideas together in June.
There are of course many superb settings of the Requiem texts, so in order to get a fresh take on them I quickly decided that I would take the unusual step of setting the texts in modern English instead of Latin. The good thing about this is that the congregation would understand all the words without having to have a translation in front of them. But they would also get to hear all that stuff about hell and torment unshielded by the language barrier.
In the texts I have chosen, I have tried to strike a balance between tradition and the expectations of a modern congregation gathering to mourn the loss of loved ones; and I have tried to be sparing in the amount of repetition of texts between movements.
The Introit uses the traditional text (drawn from 2 Esdras 2:34–35 and Psalm 65:1-2).
The petitions added to the Kyrie come from ‘Kyrie Confession – Spirit’, used for the service for All Souls in the Common Worship Times and Seasons volume.
For my Gradual, I use Absolve, Domine, which is the traditional Tract.
For the Commemoration, I took inspiration from the traditional Gradual, which starts the same way as the Introit but then quotes Psalm 112.6b-7a. My version uses Psalm 112.4a,6,9b and Wisdom 3.1,2a,3b (being the first part of the canticle, the Song of the Righteous). The title comes from verse 6 of the psalm, which highlights the liturgical action it accompanies.
The Offertory is one of the traditional texts.
The Sursum Corda, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Acclamation are standard Eucharistic texts.
The Agnus Dei uses the traditional variant petitions for the Requiem.
Lux Aeterna is the traditional text for the distribution of Communion.
I did not feel that the Dies Irae, as powerful as it would be, would fit well in our annual service. Pie Iesu is a combination of the end of the Dies Irae and the end of the Agnus Dei, so to avoid repetition I left it alone. I also decided against setting In Paradisum and Libera Me since strictly speaking they belong to the burial rites, and are therefore better suited to a service for an individual rather than All Souls.
I have tried to make the setting relatively simple to learn and sing, yet prayerful and dramatic.
Voicing: Solo voice/SATB
Notes on ambitus:
Approximate total performance length: 25 minutes
Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public Licence: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/, with the following exception.
‘Kyrie Confession – Spirit’ from Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England is © The Archbishops’ Council 2000. Published by Church House Publishing. Used by permission. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sheet music (PDF, A4) for SATB and organ
Collection of MIDI files (ZIP) generated from the above score
MP3 rehearsal files
This is an unsophisticated rendering, so is not fully representative