Forty-Year Requiem

2 Sopranos, Tenor, and Brass Ensemble
Completed: 3/23/2009; Premiered: 4/3/2009
Unpublished – Contact the composer


The Forty-Year Requiem is in memory of the composer’s mother, Catherine Shirley Wike Bowyer (July 8, 1931 – April 9, 1969).

The music is composed for three singers (two sopranos, one tenor) with brass, percussion, and rhythm section.  Mixing classical and jazz styles, this composition is meant to reflect the wide-ranging genres of Cathy Bowyer’s record collection, which included Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, The Fifth Dimension, and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

The requiem mass has a centuries-old tradition of remembering loved ones, but the text is really a long prayer for mercy for all mankind.  Formally, this composition follows the typical requiem mass outline used by countless composers over the centuries, stylistically juxtaposed with ideas drawn from jazz, R&B, and New Orleans brass traditions.

The lyrics are freely-adapted English translations by the composer.


I. Introit

A long, somber introduction leads to the main melody statement by the trumpets.  The parallel fourths of the secondary theme are meant to conjure the Gregorian chants of mass antiquity.

Grant eternal rest, Oh Lord, Eternal rest.
Hear our prayer, Oh Lord. Hear our prayer, Oh Lord.
Shine eternal light, Oh Lord, Eternal light.
Hear our prayer, Oh Lord. Hear our prayer, Oh Lord.

II. Kyrie

This prayer for mercy, combining Latin and English, borrows bits and pieces from Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” a 1960’s funk-jazz anthem recorded by the Cannonball Adderley Quartet.  Some of these borrowed elements may be unrecognizable in the new context.

Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy.
Dear Lord, have mercy over me.
Christe eleison, Christ, have mercy.
Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy over me.

III. Dies Irae

In the style of a New Orleans street band, this bluesey movement is meant to be a light-hearted reminder of how much we need mercy.

On the Judgment Day, that Day of Wrath,
There will only be one path.
Who will deserve to get in?
Who among us has no sin?

When all around is doom and distress,
The sky will fall, but I digress,
You know it’ll be a mess!
The Day of Wrath!

When the dead awake,
And the Earth begins to shake,
Who will be worthy?

When we hear the trumpet blast,
When the first shall be last.
Who will be worthy?

When the Lord on high
Comes to judge you and I,
Who will be worthy?

When the gates of Hell
Open up – what a smell!
Who will be worthy?

IV. Sanctus

One of the records in my mother’s collection was an original issue of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, released in 1959 when I was an infant, my older brother was in his “terrible twos,” and our mother probably needed to “take five.”  This movement borrows the time signature and feel of that famous recording, but twists them considerably, including a brass fugue after the trumpet solo.  One of my two most memorable performance experiences was playing with Dave Brubeck in 1987, realizing that my mother had been a fan of his music.

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

V. Musical Offering I

The gospel favorite, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” is based on the much older hymn known as “Maitland.”  This version is inspired by Dale Hutchens, who introduced me to the history and significance of the piece several years ago when he asked me to arrange it for jazz big band.

(Instrumental)

VI. Agnus Dei

As originally planned, this movement would have been much longer.  When I got into it, however, it seemed complete as is.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Grant us rest.

VII. Communion-Benediction

Faith requires that any prayer for mercy must end on a hopeful note, as represented in the musical character of this piece.

Grant eternal rest, Oh Lord,
And shine your light on us.
For Thou art merciful.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Amen.

VIII. Musical Offering II

One of my favorite memories of my mother involves listening to a recording of The Fifth Dimension sing “Up, Up, and Away” while I ran around the house while holding a towel high over my head, pretending it was a balloon.  The second of my most memorable performance experiences was playing this song with The Fifth Dimension in 1994; it can be quite difficult to play trombone with a lump in the throat.

(Instrumental)