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Upcoming Event -- MAY 2015 -- About REQUIEM

It is my great privilege and pleasure to collaborate with The Singers' Project on the premiere of my 2009 composition, Requiem for four soloists, SATB Choir, and Chamber Orchestra. While the work was completed in fulfillment of requirements for the PhD in Music from UCLA, its inspiration began in 2002 as a way to honor the collective memories of three great ladies in my life, my maternal and paternal grandmothers and one of my aunts. Indeed, the form of the Requiem is a direct result of my desire to reflect my relationship with these special women.

Of the three, my aunt Joan (as a trained musician) would have been the only one to have a personal knowledge of the Latin texts I planned to use. In order to gain greater immediacy with the spiritual life of my grandmothers (Louise and Marian), I selected different African American spirituals to use as insertions between the Latin movements. The familiar texts of the spirituals, albeit with my original music, serve as commentaries on the Latin movements that surround them. In this manner, the form of the work is similar to that of the Britten War Requiem, which also features the insertion of non-Latin text to represent the composer's particular viewpoint.

Coming from a family of church musicians, the use of choir and orchestra in the work was a natural choice. In order to determine the solo voices, I again looked to the three ladies for guidance. They were all great choristers and solo singers in their own rights and, luckily for me, they sang different parts. So, my solo quartet represents the first (coloratura) soprano talents of my maternal grandmother, the second (lyric) soprano of my aunt, and the mezzo (dramatic) soprano of my paternal grandmother. The quartet is rounded out by a solo tenor who represents my speaking voice in the work, singing notes that I only wish I had! It is these voices, in solos, duets, trios, and quartets that present the spirituals in the work.

Unified by key/harmonic structure and melodic ideas, the formal plan of the Requiem yields a work that is actually three compositions in one. In addition to the complete work, you could separate the Latin from the spirituals and perform an essentially choral piece with one solo (the tenor Pie Jesu). It is also possible to perform the spirituals as a solo cantata with the same dramatic and musical arc as the Latin framework.

Even though the Requiem has an intensely personal connection for me, I hope to have crafted a work that would tell a story of a familiar journey from the pain of loss to acceptance and the ongoing hope for reconciliation. Please continue visiting this space for further updates on the progress of bringing this work to fruition and we all look forward to seeing you next spring for the premiere of Requiem.

Dwayne S. Milburn, PhD

2017 The Singers' Project