John Rutter’s “Requiem”

LisaBondDear Friends of Kenilworth Union Church,

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
—John 11:25–26

There it is. The essence of the Christian faith as stated in the “Agnus Dei” movement of John Rutter’s Requiem. Rutter adopts this statement of faith as the turning point of the journey from  the depths of darkness into God’s glorious light. This is just a glimpse of the remarkable Masterwork, Requiem, by English composer John Rutter. What is a Requiem? It is a Mass for the dead, or in the case of this particular setting, a Mass for the dying. His Requiem is an inspiring and unique setting which draws inspiration from both Latin and English sources.

Composed over a period of time after the death of his own father, Rutter did not just use the text from the traditional Catholic death mass, as was the norm. He also drew inspiration from the 1666 Book of Common Prayer, and from the Bible. Rutter modeled this non-traditional use of text after one of his favorite composers, Gabriel Fauré. Chancel Choir and a guest chamber orchestra will be offering the Requiem during worship this Sunday, March 22 at both the 9 and 10:30 a.m. services.

There are seven movements of this beautiful work, and Rutter weaves a stunning tapestry filled with both darkness and light throughout each movement. For example, the final movement, “Lux Aterna” or Eternal Light, begins with a stunning solo by Alyssa Bennett. “I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, blessed. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labors.” (Revelation 14:13) This voice, which some interpret as the Holy Spirit, is beckoning a soul to transition between two worlds. God calls forth the dying into a dimension of His pure love. Could it be that the hand of God was embracing the composer’s hand as the notes were carved onto the manuscript? That is what I believe.

Most of us in our congregation have endured the loss of a loved one. As our dedicated Chancel Choir has been diligently preparing this Choral work, our dear organist, John Bryant has been on our minds and in our hearts. As I write this to you this morning, John is nearing the end of his life in hospice care. This has been a painful journey for all of us who love John. He is a member of our Church family. Yet despite the tears in rehearsal, we have been blessed by the solace and peace that emanates from God’s glorious music. We pray that you will also be comforted. As Rev. Jo Forrest says, “Thanks be to God for the gift of music.” Amen friends. Amen!

Lisa Bond
Director of Music