Rest Oration

A Requiem Mass is most often a funeral Mass. The music consists of prayers for the dead as well as some standard Mass parts, such as the Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy), the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

The Knoxville Choral Society performed Requiem for the Living at the Tennessee Theatre on Sunday evening. The members of the Choral Society, including my wife, attended a workshop and rehearsal with composer Dan Forrest on Saturday at Carson-Newman University. Singers from Carson-Newman joined with the KCS for the performance.

Dan Forrest and KCS director Eric Thorson held a pre-concert chat at 6:15 p.m. Forrest answered questions from several of the choir members who were about to sing his compositions.

When I arrived at the concert, I was prepared to hear some nice funeral music. I was happy to find out during the chat that I would also hear a few Christmas carols. Forrest said that he was commissioned to write an arrangement for “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” which was a song he disliked. He used the opportunity to pick up the tempo from the way the hymn is traditionally sung. He did an excellent job. I didn’t know the song before but now I want to hear it again and again.

The first half of the show put me in the Advent mood a few weeks early. I especially loved Forrest’s arrangement of “The First Noel.” I thought his version of “How Great Thou Art” would sound great during the closing credits of a film.

In the outstanding “Requiem for the Living,” Forrest deliberately swapped the placement of two Mass parts. He wanted his opus to ask for Christ’s mercy in the Agnus Dei before celebrating the Lord of Hosts in the Sanctus. In a Catholic Mass, the Sanctus leads into the Eucharistic Prayer which follows Christ’s instructions to “do this in memory of Me.” The Eucharistic Prayer is then followed by the Agnus Dei, which completes the thought that Jesus is the sacrificial lamb who died for our sins and whose body and blood are sacrificed on the altar.

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