My sabbatical has opened up a vast frontier of unstructured time…[cue tumble weed,.. wind on the prairie,… nervous clearing of throat…]
No courses to design, no choir rehearsals to prepare, no volunteers to recruit, no meetings to attend, no music to practice. What on earth to do with all of this lovely, precious, exquisite, empty time?
Thankfully, it seems that just the right projects have come along at just the right time. I am putting the finishing touches on a Requiem mass for an Episcopal parish in California. Dr Ruben Valenzuela is the music director of All Souls’ San Diego. He had performed some of my Four Motets with his church choir, and has now commissioned me to write this Requiem in memory of a priest of that parish, Fr Edward Kellogg, who passed away in 2013.
Ruben Valenzuela and I met over a common interest in Healey Willan, my superstar predecessor at the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene. Although I don’t direct music there anymore I am still caught up in the Willan web. I’m involved in archival research, currently looking at Willan’s correspondence with the insightful help of his daughter Mary. At age 97 she is as lively as ever, and full of humour and great stories. We had an epic journey to Ottawa last month to comb through her Dad’s letters in the national archives.
My setting of the Requiem is an a cappella, SATB (occasionally SSATBB) setting of eight movements of the traditional liturgical texts in Latin. It may seem a little emotionally distant to write in that archaic language in 2017, but if you are a singer and you’ve lived that text for some 40 years, singing settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Britten, the Latin words are as natural as the national anthem. My eight movements total about 25 minutes of music. I did not set the fire and brimstone Dies Irae, since you could easily insert the Gregorian hymn at that point.
Stay tuned and I will let you know when it’s published at Biretta Books.
In the meantime, plan your trip to San Diego for the premiere, November 2nd at All Souls’ parish.