As well as using Bob Chilcott’s requiem as inspiration we also looked at other Requiem settings and considered the vast range of emotions contained within the back catalogue of pieces of this type. In doing so, we created a new structure and form, shaped by the seasons. Our Requiem charts the progress from full Summer, through the waning of Autumn, into the raging storms of Winter and finally into the hope and light of Spring.
Bob Chilcott very kindly came to visit the young people during the process to see how they were getting on and it was a fantastic experience for them all to meet him and to hear his opinions on our piece.
Movement 1 - Summer
Five rich chords describe the warmth and fullness of summer. The young instrumentalists explore a melodic pattern and improvise over a drone, expressing the freedom of the season.
Movement 2 - Autumn
Five soloists sing about loss and loneliness: My heart feels heavy/ Sorrow fills my mind/ Standing alone. They are joined by the rest of the chorus who sing a 16th Century round, Ah Poor Bird/ Take thy flight/ Far above the sorrows/ Of this dark night. The instrumentalists join in and the song builds to a climax before falling away and leaving a four part version of the round.
Movement 3 - Winter
Violent storms and shattering man-made and natural disasters are described in this movement. The instrumentalists build stuttering textures and terrifying screeches which lead into an aggressive rhythmic section with a howling saxophone solo. The players settle on a driving rhythmic section and the singers sing text from the Requiem: Dies irae (Day of Wrath)/ Dies illa (Day of Judgement)/ Solvet saeclum in favilla (Day when the world turns to ashes)/ Teste David cum Sybilla (As fortold by the prophets).
Suddenly the orchestra play a shaking chord and the singers sing Quantus tremor est futurus (How much tremor will there be). This tension is resolved by the strings who take up a fragment of Chilcott's requiem which spreads throughout the band. The singers join singing Requiem Aeternam (Eternal Rest) followed by a new section of music in which we set the words "Peace" and "Rest" in some of the different languages we have in the group, Italian, German, Polish and Shona: Pace - Riposo - Ruhe und Frieden - Pokój - Kozorodza.
In the final section of winter, we explore the latin text Et lux perpetua (And eternal light). We use the chord and scale that Chilcott uses in his setting, but have composed our own melody with soloists and the whole group singing. Finally, all performers sing the Chilcott chord with an improvised singing solo.
Movement 4 - Spring
This is a joyous celebration of life and rebirth.
Winter melts away
Sadness turns to cheer
Colour is reborn,
Drifting in the freedom of spring
Hope is on its way
For the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Rebecca Willows – Community and Education Officer
Philip Woods – French Horn
Roberto Sorrentino and Daniel Hammersley – ‘Cello
For the Oxford Bach Choir
Martin Peters and Johanna Schroeder