Eternal Light: A Requiem

Commissioned by London Musici (Artistic Director: Mark Stephenson) to celebrate its 20th anniversary as both a choral-orchestral-dance piece for London Musici, The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, and Rambert Dance Company (Artistic Director: Mark Baldwin) and as a choral-orchestral work. It received its première at The Lowry in Salford on the 25th September 2008.

Talking about composing the work, Howard said – “Most requiems are based, one way or another, on the medieval church’s Mass for the Dead, which is made up of a series of sections (‘movements’) beginning with the ‘Kyrie Eleison’ (Greek meaning Lord have mercy) and ending with ‘In Paradisum’ (Into paradise).  Although the traditional requiem text calls for ‘eternal peace, rest and light’ for those who have died, it also emphasises judgement and everlasting damnation for anyone who transgresses the Roman Catholic Church’s code of behaviour, as seen from the perspective of the Middle Ages. I did not feel at ease with this approach to the appalling pain of loss and grief, so in an attempt to provide some solace for the living that mourn, I stripped down the old Latin texts to a few phrases in each movement and laid beside them words from English poems from across the last 500 years.

The movements are arranged like this:

  1. Requiem aeternam (everlasting peace) – Kyrie Eleison – ‘Close now thine eyes and rest secure, thy soul is safe enough, thy body sure’
  2. Revelation I: a passage from the Bible depicting the end of the world (Apocalypse)
  3. Litany: Belief. ‘I have to believe that you still exist somewhere, That you still watch me Sometimes, That you still love me Somehow. I have to believe That life has meaning Somehow, That I am useful here Sometimes, That I make small differences Somewhere. I have to believe That I need to stay here For some time, That all this teaches me Something, So that I can meet you again Somewhere.
  4. Hymn: ‘Lead, kindly light amid the encircling gloom, Lead thou me on…’
  5. Lacrymosa (Tears): ‘Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep…’
  6. Dies Irae (That terrible day): In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses row on row…’
  7. Recordare (Remember us, sweet Jesus): ‘Drop, drop, slow tears..’
  8. Revelation II
  9. Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)
  10. In Paradisum – Lux Aeterna (In paradise, eternal light & everlasting peace).

A Guardian Article about Eternal Light can be found here

A list of past performances of Eternal Light can be found here.

Key information:

Scored for:  soprano, tenor & baratone solists, SATB chorus, two keyboards, harp (optional) and strings.  (Reduced instrumentation available – piano, organ and harp).

Duration:  40 minutes

Première:  25.9.08

Availability:  Vocal score 0-571-53230-6 on sale (or for hire, in selected territories), full score and parts available for hire.  Full score and parts for reduced instrumentation available on special sale from the Hire Library.  For more information contact Faber Music

Track list: