It’s a striking name, arising from a powerful concept, and in just two years STREET REQUIEM has taken on a life of its own. Now it’s coming home, with a performance on Sunday June 12 at Melbourne Recital Centre, including the premiere of two additional new movements and revisions, and singers from Credo Choir, Dallas, in the massed choir.
Conceived by Jonathon Welch (pictured), popularly known as the award-winning conductor of Choir of Hard Knocks, STREET REQUIEM was collaboratively written with Dr Kathleen McGuire, who created the “Singers of the Street” choir in San Francisco, and Director of Curriculum for the School of Hard Knocks, Andy Payne.
In their words: STREET REQUIEM is a big choral work that aims to bring a sense of peace, remembrance and hope to many communities that struggle to come to terms with street violence and a loss of safety on our streets in Australia and around the world.
Since STREET REQUIEM was premiered in June 2014 it has been performed extensively throughout Australia and made its USA premiere in January 2015 with the legendary mezzo soprano Frederica Von Stade in Dallas, Texas. Von Stade also joined with a mass chorus of singers and chamber orchestra in two California premiere performances of STREET REQUIEM last year. In the prestigious American Prize the work made it into the finals and ultimately was given a special citation for “dignifying the homeless”.
Subsequent performances have included San Francisco, Seattle, Detroit, Los Angeles and Welch will be premiering STREET REQUIEM in Boston and New York at Carnegie Hall in September with 120 Australian singers in the choir.
In 2014, Founding Artistic Director of the School of Hard Knocks, Dr Jonathon Welch, told Classic Melbourne about the “real collaboration” between the three composers, with McGuire and Payne quickly picking up on his concept for the Requiem. It came to him on a flight to New Zealand a few years ago when he saw a movie about a little boy on the streets in the USA who had an extraordinary musical talent. This was married with something that is never far from Welch’s mind: “what’s been happening on the streets here in Melbourne” – the coward-punches, violence, even deaths, such as that of Jill Meagher, and later, a homeless man.
“We’re mourning for our loss of safety,” says Welch, adding STREET REQUIEM is “in memory of those who died homeless”.
The three composers began by analysing a “top ten” of requiems, to see if there was “any rhyme or reason, any ‘recipe’ for requiems”, Welch said. The works included requiems by Britten, Brahms, Mozart and Lloyd-Webber. Although requiems are most often associated with the Christian church, the composers were keen to make it relevant to other faiths as well.
“Musically the styles are very diverse” says Welch, “We juxtaposed, and challenged certain interpretations of Latin text.” Examples were the Pie Jesu he wrote and a Lacrimosa, which is represented by the Celtic poem, “She moved through the fair”.
“It was an interesting process the three of us working together”, Welch concludes. “The others asked me, ‘How did you know that we’d be able to work together?’ – which was so strange after working together for nine months!”
Read more about the Requiem and other initiatives of the School of Hard Knocks.