Instrumentation: SATB, Soprano and Baritone Soloists, & Orchestra
Purchase: Contact composer directly
Duration: 30:00 (5 movements)
Language: English
Story:  There are so many exquisite, beautiful, and moving Requiems in the repertoire that the task of composing a new one seems humbling-ly daunting at best and futile at worst. Indeed, setting the traditional Requiem text in Latin, which many composers have already done masterfully, seems downright impossible. I therefore settled on the idea of writing a
requiem on the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) using texts in English.  Each successive movement is tied to one of these stages and I tried to select texts that correspond to each emotion.

The first movement is a passacaglia - it strikes me that someone who is in denial has a tendency to tirelessly repeat the same ideas and thoughts, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, and the passacaglia form suits this idea.
The movement ends with a stammering homophonic statement of Dickinson's words "You...could...not."

The text of the second movement is excerpted from Shakespeare's play Macbeth. Macduff has just learned that his family has been slain by Macbeth's forces, and Malcolm advises him to channel his grief into rage. The baritone soloist plays the role of Macduff, while the chorus as Malcolm besieges him to use his anger. The soloist fights the urge, repeatedly singing "Heaven rest them now" while the chorus implores him to "enrage" his heart. He finally gives in, and the movement ends in a burst of anger.

The third movement sets the famed Edgar Allan Poe work A Dream Within A Dream. Bargaining in this context strikes me as continually finding new ways to ask the same question even though you already know the answer; thus the movement takes a minimalist approach, with ostinatos slowly morphing over time even though the eventual outcome is unchangeable: "O God, can I not save one from the pitiless wave?"

The a cappella fourth movement is composed around the idea of parallel fifths - almost every note moves in parallel fifths with another note. Writing parallel fifths is often lambasted as a mistake because it stifles harmonic motion -- what is depression but motion stifled? Repeated throughout the movement, Wordsworth's beautiful sentiment "A slumber did my spirit seal" serves as a unifying element.

The fifth movement combines two poems by Elizabeth Barret Browning and Robert Browning. Mrs. Browning's endearing poem was written after she met her husband, and recalls a time before they met: she "sat alone" even though he was out there somewhere in the world. I was particularly struck by the line, "When I think that thou wast in the world a year ago" and how it could be read two different ways - one looking back on a time before she met her husband (i.e. her intended meaning), and another as a widow remembering a time when her husband was still in the world.  The work finally finds joyous acceptance in the final line of Mr. Browning's poem: "All that was death grows life, grows love!"

The Requiem is scored for the same forces as Brahms' German Requiem, and can serve with it as an opening number on a concert program.

I. I Could Not
I could not die -- with You For One must wait
You -- could not --
- Emily Dickinson

II. Blunt Not the Heart
Macduff: I cannot but remember such things were,
That were most precious to me. Did heaven look on
And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff,
They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,
Not for their own demerits, but for mine,
Fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now!
Malcolm: Be this the whetstone of your sword: let grief
Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it.
- William Shakespeare

III. Can I Not Save One?
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep, '
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
- Edgar Allan Poe

IV. A Slumber
A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.
No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.
- William Wordsworth

V. Grows Love
Beloved, my Beloved, when I think
That thou wast in the world a year ago,
What time I sat alone here in the snow
And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink
No moment at thy voice, but link by link,
Went counting all my chains as if that so
They never could fall off at any blow
Struck by thy possible hand...
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wanting is – what?
Summer redundant,
Blueness abundant,
– Where is the blot?
Beamy the world, yet a blank all the same,
– Framework which waits for a picture to frame:
What of the leafage, what of the flower?
Roses embowering with naught they embower!
Come then, complete incompletion, O comer,
Pant thro the blueness, perfect the summer!
Breathe but one breath
Rose-beauty above,
And all that was death
Grows life, grows love,
Grows love!
- Robert Browning

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