About STREET REQUIEM

18 SEP 2015 | BY SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS

STREET REQUIEM (2014) was composed in Melbourne, Australia, by Kathleen McGuire, Andy Payne and Jonathon Welch. The complete ten-movement work was premiered at the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Elisabeth Murdoch Hall on the 7th of June 2014, conducted by Jonathon Welch and Kathleen McGuire.

Jonathon Welch conceived of STREET REQUIEM with the aim of bringing a sense of peace, remembrance and hope to communities struggling to come to terms with street violence, war and a loss of safety on our streets. It is a highly accessible, contemporary work including English, African and Persian lyrics alongside a modern setting of the traditional Latin texts. While at times deeply moving, the work is essentially optimistic and uplifting. The composers utilise gospel, Celtic, neo-Romantic, neo-Baroque, Indigenous and contemporary genres and instrumentation to reflect the multicultural and multifaith traditions of modern city living. The harmonic language finds common ground in the work’s multiple styles by building upon chant and folk music- influenced open fourth and fifth intervals, with melodies drawn from pentatonic scales and various modes.

From the outset they endeavoured to create an inclusive work to which people from various backgrounds and traditions could relate. Although it is anchored in the Latin of the traditional requiem mass, they incorporate English texts relevant to a modern day context. STREET REQUIEM is deliberately neither secular nor religious, intended instead to be deeply spiritual, allowing listeners to find their own faith or meaning in the context of the words.

Because there were several highly publicised deaths on the streets of Melbourne during the composition period, the composers were asked if any specific events are referenced in the work. The answer is best understood by their intent to write inclusively. There is no doubt that specific events profoundly affected them – and they indeed discussed whether or not to write for or dedicate particular sections to specific individuals – but it was decided that STREET REQUIEM would be for all those who died on the streets.

As well as remembering street deaths, the composers also want to challenge audiences to do something about their situation, whether it is for those who are forced to live on the streets or in regard to society’s general attitudes to violence. The tone of STREET REQUIEM is often confronting, encouraging listeners to examine their own attitudes and beliefs.

STREET REQUIEM was originally intended for performance by community choirs. It can be performed with piano-only accompaniment (plus percussion in the Gloria movement), but will be continually enhanced by the additional instrumentation of didjeridu, string quartet, percussion or Steven Couch’s chamber orchestra version.