In 2008, we began what has become a beloved Holy Communion parish tradition, singing a setting of a Requiem with orchestra on a Sunday morning once a year.
We sing this Requiem in memory of the faithful departed who have been buried from this parish since last All Saints’ Day.
For a number of years, we sang the Requiem on the Sunday after All Saints’ Day. When, in 2012 we combined our former 9 a.m. and 11:15 Sunday services into one 10:30 liturgy, we moved the Requiem to Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, with “All Saints’ Sunday” remaining on the first Sunday.
In the United Kingdom, Remembrance Day is observed on November 11 and is sometimes informally called “Poppy Day.” Formerly called Armistice Day, this memorial day observance has been celebrated in the Commonwealth of Nations since the end of World War I, remembering all those who died in battle in wars since. Though the armistice of WWI was not signed until June 1919, the hostilities of WWI were ended on “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”
In the United States, Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11. Also formerly called Armistice Day, the observance was renamed in 1954 in include those in the Korean War.
Remembrance Sunday is observed on the Sunday nearest November 11 in the United Kingdom Commonwealth, and in this country many Episcopal parishes observe the Sunday as well, given that it is closest to our own Veterans Day.
When choosing a Requiem setting for our choirs to sing, the choirmaster must be careful, as not every Requiem easily adapts into the Holy Eucharist liturgy. The Brahms’ Requiem, Ein Deutsches Requiem, will never be possible, as Brahms departed from the standard requiem texts and did his own thing, as Germans are sometimes want to do.
From medieval plainchant to Renaissance composers to Charpentier, Haydn, Mozart, Saint-Saëns, and even Rutter, there are dozens of Requiem settings for chorus and orchestra. As some Requiem settings slightly depart from the tradition, the scale or length of these choral works often do not work well in a liturgical setting.
Truth be told, most of these large-scale Requiem settings were conceived as concert pieces and were never intended be used liturgically.
However, the Fauré Requiem, which we will sing this Sunday, works beautifully in a liturgical setting, so beautifully in fact that many will be moved to tears. Indeed, the experience is wonderfully different from our standard Sunday morning musical fare.
At 10:30 a.m., the procession or entrance rite will begin simply, with no opening voluntary, no opening hymn, no fanfare. The eye of the worshiper will be drawn to the high altar as the choirs sing, “Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord.” (Introit/Kyrie)
During the liturgy, the congregation will sing a beautiful text to the beloved favorite hymn tune Adoro te devote, followed by the choirs singing the other Requiem movements Offertorium, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and finishing with the sublime In Paradisum (“May choirs of angels lead you into paradise”).
The Parish Choir and chamber orchestra will be joined by the Rhodes Women’s Chorus and our own CHC Choristers. I have received reports that choristers have been singing Latin from the backseats of cars in the carpool lines, which warms this choirmaster’s heart.
Please join us for a moving musical experience this Sunday morning.