Requiem for the Living

Before we all got sent to the bench for several games, before we started murmuring about whether we’d get to play again this season, the choir in my church had been preparing to join other choirs for a late April performance of Dan Forrest’s marvelous Requiem for the Living. Now as ever, mankind must to recognize his need for good, restorative rest.

I have loved John Rutter’s Requiem for many years. I bought the CD in college, when I was buying music like that, and maybe I heard it on the radio prior that, I don’t remember. It’s enchanting. Forrest’s piece will be second favorite now. I hope you enjoy this recording.

The composer writes his piece tells “a narrative just as much for the living, and their own struggle with pain and sorrow, as for the dead.”

The opening movement sets the traditional Introit and Kyrie texts- pleas for rest and mercy- using ever-increasing elaborations on a simple three-note descending motive. The second movement, instead of the traditional Dies Irae, sets Scriptural texts that speak of the turmoil and sorrow which face humanity, while yet invoking musical and textual allusions to the Dies Irae. This movement juxtaposes aggressive rhythmic gestures with long, floating melodic lines, including quotes of the Kyrie from the first movement. The Agnus Dei is performed next (a departure from the usual liturgical order) as a plea for deliverance and peace; the Sanctus, following it, becomes a response to this redemption.

The Sanctus offers three different glimpses of the “heavens and earth, full of Thy glory”, all of which develop the same musical motive: an ethereal opening section inspired by images of space from the Hubble Space Telescope, a stirring middle section inspired by images of our own planet as viewed from the International Space Station, and a closing section which brings the listener down to Earth, where cities teem with the energy of humanity.

The Lux Aeterna which then closes the work portrays light, peace, and rest- for both the deceased and the living. 

from the program notes shared on

The words are latin. Here’s the translation pulled from this recordings page.

I. Introit—Kyrie
Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Hear my prayer, for unto Thee all flesh shall come.
Lord, have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy.

II. Vanitas Vanitatum
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!
Merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest.
Full of tears, he said,
Let the day perish wherein I was born.

III. Agnus Dei
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us; grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
grant us peace; have mercy on us; grant them rest.

IV. Sanctus
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest!

V. Lux Aeterna
May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord,
in the company of Thy saints forever: for Thou art merciful.
Let perpetual light shine on them.
Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Grant us peace.

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