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Requiem for an Unknown Soldier

for SATB choir and organ

Year:  2004   ·  Duration:  30m

Year:  2004
Duration:  30m


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Requiem For An Unknown Soldier was written in 2004, as a salute to those who have fallen in so many wars. It is also a statement about the barbaric futility of such conflicts, and the dishonesty of nations who sacrifice their young men, on the pretext that 'it is a good and noble thing to give one's life for one's country.' 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.'

The work uses traditional Latin texts from various parts of the Requiem Mass, and also settings of words by Wilfred Owen, the First World War poet. The short Requiem takes just over thirty minutes to perform, and requires a four-part choir, soprano and bass/baritone soloists, and organ.

Three movements are a cappella, including the 'Pie Jesu' and 'Agnus Dei' which have been widely sung in other contexts. The Latin text is well known and gives the work universal acceptance throughout the choral world. The work has been available on the internet since late 2004, and well over a hundred copies have been downloaded. Requiem will be performed in Wanganui on or about Anzac Day 2007; in the northern hemisphere it would usually be performed on or about Remembrance Day 11 November.

Benjamin Britten's great War Requiem, commissioned for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral in 1962, and secondly by Helen Clark's determination to have New Zealand's own Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Wellington. The work's bitterest moments recall the waste of so many young lives on foreign battlefields. It is not a comfortable work, but the many performances of 'Pie Jesu' and 'Agnus Dei' show that its quieter and more contemplative moments have general appeal. In contrast, the 'Dies Irae' for male voices uses vigorous repeated notes and tumultuous scale passages to conjure up the dreadful Day of Judgement. The 'Sanctus' presents unison voices with an opportunity to make a glorious declamation of "Hosanna in excelsis!" Owen's harrowing words are the most touching moments of the work, and the bass/baritone has the task of communicating the horror of young men thrown into a situation of 'kill, or be killed'.

Contents note

Requiem aeternam, Kyrie eleison, Dies Irae (TTBB), Pie Jesu, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Lux aeterna, plus two Wilfred Owen poems for baritone soloist.

Text note

Traditional and two poems by Wilfred Owen.

Performance history

11 Nov 2007: Requiem

24 Apr 2008: Requiem for ANZAC