Monday, November 02, 2015

Alfred Fedak: "Requiem: For Us the Living", a rather gentle setting (with Valedictory performed on All Saints Day)

On Sunday, November 1, All Saints Day, the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC presented as “The Gradual” an anthem called “Valediction” (or Valedictory), from the “Requiem: For Us the Living” (2007) by Alfred V. Fedak (b. 1953) , which the composer describes here on his own website. The work is to be performed by chorus, organ and small string ensemble.  The composer is a choirmaster and composer in residence at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York.

The Valedictory appears to be the closing section of a 30 minute work, rising to a climax and subsiding to a peaceful close in C.  The entire work is available now on YouTube on in two Parts, with Part 1 here, and the Part 2 embeded below.  (Another version divides it into four smaller parts.)

The style of the work reminds me of Vaughn Williams, and also of the Requiem by John Rutter, and perhaps Gabriel Faure (which I recall hearing in Chambersburg, PA in March 1991, but that leads to another long curious story for another time).  The music is often gentle, and a bit modal (Lydian) in places.  The opening (a descending tetrachrodal theme that bears a curious resemblance to the hymn tune in the controversial completion of the finale of the Bruckner Ninth)  in G Minor (the key for a Vaughn Williams Mass). But the 17-minute Part 1 ends affirmative in F# Major, and odd descent. Then it seems the entire work will end a tritone away, in C.  (I’ve experimented with a similar scheme for the finale of my own Sonata, so discovering this work was interesting for me.)

The church service on Sunday opened with the setting in G Major of “For All the Saints” by Ralph Vaughn Williams. But the original tune was composed by Joseph Barnby and called “Sarum” with original words by Anglican Bishop William Wakefield How.  Vaughn Williams sometimes called it “Sine Nomine” of “Without Name”.  As a Postlude, Lon Schreiber performed another setting of the hymn by Leo Sowerby, with a little more dissonance.

All Saints Day turns around the mood for those who survive Halloween in the clubs very quickly.

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