A Soldier's Requiem

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A Soldier's Requiem

Post by Pete » Thu Nov 11, 2004 4:04 pm

I am a published and prize-winning composer, new to this forum, and I am nearing completion of a major work for a professional-standard choir and orchestra. It is a Requiem in nine movements, and is entitled: 'A Soldier's Requiem'.

I have completed seven movements and am currently drafting the latter two. I have been writing this work for over a year, suspending all other activities. The completed movements amount to approx. 30 minutes playing time, and I anticipate the completed work will be about 45 mins. in total. The text is from the original Latin requiem mass.

I have won prizes at national level, including the best original composition at the largest cultural festival in Europe - the Welsh National Eisteddfod. I have had excellent reviews for my earlier works. However, I feel this is my best work to date, my magnum opus. Certainly, it is written from the heart.

My publisher handles only brass music, and he is unable to help me in this latest venture. I need help and advice, and hence my appeal here.

I remember being on an Open University music course, and everybody there was amazed at my compositions - including a young chap who was at a seminary. He suggested offering my music to the Catholic Church - he was involved with the music department in some capacity. I was not ready at that time, but am now.

Like most other composers, I am unable to make a living from it. Further, I am disabled, and am only in receipt of the princely sum of £60 per week in benefits - my total income.

My style is (largely) diatonic and melodic, and I believe that sacred music should be accessible to everyone.

The Arts Council and WAMF have offered very little in the way of help - I think their funding is for those composers already established in the field (jobs for the boyos?). Certainly, it is a tough world out there and I am finding it hard to breakthrough the apathy.

All suggestions for help would be welcome.



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Post by Pete » Fri Nov 12, 2004 5:57 pm


Sorry about the style of the above - no false modesty here! - but you can tell I have spent some time in the States learning how to sell myself - no matter how much against the grain it goes. (It is an aspect of the business that I loathe, but is sadly necessary to open doors.)

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Requiem Mass or for performance?

Post by VML » Fri Nov 12, 2004 8:13 pm

Pete, I wish you well with your compositions, and I hope you find somewhere they can be played.

This forum deals with music for the liturgy, and very, very few Catholic churches have the kind of choir and orchestra your Requiem would require.
I once happened upon Faure's Dies irae in its intended place: That was a Solemn Requiem Mass for Princess Diana, at Brompton Oratory, probably the most ornate Catholic church in England, with music and resources to match. Even then, they were not, as far as I can remember, using the whole of the Faure Mass.

Performance music does not really come into what we do. Yes, we hope to write, sing and play well, and with dignity, but the music is there to serve the Mass, not to be a performance. I hope you can appreciate the difference. :)

I must add that it is pretty tough to make a living of any kind in this music.
If you read other postings here you will see what I mean.

Elsewhere in this forum, I think it is noted that the great composers' Masses are, and probably were, unlikely ever to have been used at an actual liturgy.
Just a final thought: You could try The Music Makers. I did know one composer (now deceased) whose work is published by them, but it was never his day job, even though the BBC had broadcast his symphony.

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Post by Pete » Sat Nov 13, 2004 2:51 pm

Hello VML

Thank you for your reply. I must say, perhaps I was rather naive in thinking the Catholic Church would be interested in my work.

I have written it with the original Latin text so that it could be used in the liturgy, if not in whole, then in abstract with, say, a piano/organ reduction. Certainly, the piece was written Soli Deo Gloria. I was just hoping that I could kill two birds... a work intended to become part of the liturgy and suitable for concert performance.

I was dreaming of becoming to the Catholic Church what John Tavener is to the Russian Orthodox Church. Oh well - dream on.


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Post by musicus » Sat Nov 13, 2004 6:44 pm

Hello Pete.

Following up on VML's post, I would add that there are several obstacles to the liturgical use of your work. Since the changes to the liturgy brought about by the Second Vatican Council back in the 60s, the overwhelming majority of celebrations of the Mass are now in the native language of the people, and not in Latin. Also, however much we may regret it, the fact is that, with the exception of cathedral musicians, Catholic musicians in the UK are unpaid volunteers. Inevitably, not all of them are as musically or liturgically proficient as they might be.

It is predominantly in our cathedrals that the rich heritage of Latin church music is upheld, mainly because only they have the resources to perform it. Westminster Cathedral has commissioned a notable series of contemporary Mass settings, and those by Peter Maxwell Davies (Latin) and James MacMillan (English) are exceptionally fine - and exceptionally difficult. You won't hear them in your local Catholic church this Sunday.

I suggest that it is as concert music that music like this (and, maybe, yours) will mostly be heard. MacMillan's Mass is published by Boosey and Hawkes, as is Max's, and John Tavener's publisher is Chester Music. I would approach them with your work.

As has been suggested, not all the great Mass and Requiem settings of the past got many liturgical outings after their first few performances. Those by Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Berlioz, Verdi, Brahms, Britten etc are almost exclusively heard in concert performances today.

That's not a bad company to aspire to!


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Re: Requiem Mass or for performance?

Post by mcb » Sat Nov 13, 2004 10:31 pm

VML wrote:Elsewhere in this forum, I think it is noted that the great composers' Masses are, and probably were, unlikely ever to have been used at an actual liturgy

Perhaps that's overstating it, though I'm sure VML and Musicus are right in suggesting that the concert hall is a more likely place for your music to be heard in. That's simply because churches performing large scale sacred works in a liturgical context are rather thin on the ground. Not non-existent, and not just cathedrals, mind you. I see from this week's Tablet that they're doing Mozart's Requiem tomorrow at Farm Street (Jesuit church in London). There's a church in Manchester (The Holy Name) where they regularly perform great choral works liturgically. I sang in the choir there for a few years until about ten years ago, and if I remember correctly in three successive years on All Souls' day we did requiems by Fauré, Bruckner and Anerio; and during that time Masses by Palestrina, Byrd, Gabrieli, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert... too many to recall, and quite a few with orchestra.

So there are Catholic churches that do this, just not as many as there are concert halls.

Good luck with getting your music performed, Pete, anyway.

Pete wrote:I was dreaming of becoming to the Catholic Church what John Tavener is to the Russian Orthodox Church. Oh well - dream on.

As Musicus says, the nearest we have (in the Catholic Church in the UK) are perhaps James MacMillan or Peter Maxwell Davies. Worthy role models!


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Post by dunstan » Mon Nov 15, 2004 3:49 pm

The other institutions where works of this type are sometimes attempted is the Catholic public schools - Stonyhurst, Ampleforth, Downside are the names that immediately spring to mind. When I was at Stonyhurst we would, for example, assemble a subset from the St Matthew Passion into a passion service

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Post by Pete » Tue Nov 16, 2004 1:04 pm

Thank you all for your replies and good wishes. There are some possibilities I had not considered, and will certainly explore.

Are liturgical composers the poorest relations of a very impoverished family.... composers?! I suppose the satisfaction comes from writing music with the highest aim possible - for the greater glory of God. Certainly, I have derived the utmost pleasure from composing this, as it is written for a completely different purpose from my other works.

I have always loved liturgical music, and it would appear that this is one of the few media that can have any influence on an increasingly secular society. I am hoping this work will reach a wider audience and pierce their apathy - so, possibly, the concert stage is the best tool for this. However, I would love it to be used for its original purpose - in a liturgical setting. One may as well dream for the stars as for straws.

Incidentally, I have an idea that may well be used in the church already, but I have not seen it... My synthesizers are extremely realistic sounding, only the most discerning can detect that the orchestra is synthetic (and this from a former professional orchestral musician). Using these linked to computers, would it be possible to find a choir capable of performing the work and accompany them using the synthesized orchestra? This would cut performance costs considerably and ensure the orchestra are note perfect!

Just a thought...


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A Soldier's requiem

Post by organist » Thu Jan 26, 2006 5:19 am

Pete How about trying Anglican cathedrals and public schools who might be interested? But be warned it is an expensive business sending music to people who never reply. Another thought is to get some of the work on to a website so people can sample it. My friend Barry Stronge has done this and I am looking at performing his Mass setting as a concert. He was able to give me a CD of the whole work produced by his computer! :lol:

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