ROSS HARRIS (b.1945) : Requiem for the Fallen (Text by Vincent O'Sullivan). ROSS HARRIS, VINCENT O’SULLIVAN and HOROMONA HORO.

Catalogue Number: 02Z012

Label: Atoll

Reference: Atoll 617

Format: CD

Price: $17.98

No Longer Available

Description: Vincent O'Sullivan, the composer of the libretto of Requiem for the Fallen to commemorate the centennial of the beginning of WWI 2014, writes about the profound feelings which only music and poetry can evoke when reflecting on the complex and ordinary relationships, both individual and collective, that underlie this unique event in New Zealand history. When we were invited to write a Requiem commemorating the New Zealanders who died in World War I, Ross Harris and I jumped at the chance, before quite realising where we were going to jump. A Requiem after all is one of the time-honoured forms in Western music, as well as a solemn ecclesiastical occasion. A quick glance at Google brings up not just the great composers we expect — the Verdi, Mozart, Berlioz and Britten — but hundreds of others who have used the form in various historical settings. But we both were deeply interested in “the war to end all wars” — surely the most absurdly optimistic phrase of the century — while in Ross’s Second Symphony a number of years ago we already had worked together on the events surrounding a young soldier from Invercargill, who was executed on the Western Front for desertion when he walked from the trenches back to a village and the woman with whom he had fallen in love. What also attracted us to the proposal of “Requiem for the Fallen” — the name was early decided on — was that neither of us saw anything in the least “glorious” about war, and yet we had a profound respect, a reverence even, for the young men who died in it. As an English poet killed in France once wrote in a letter, “war is indescribably disgusting.” He also spoke of “the individual horror, the fine personalities smashed suddenly into red beastliness.” Rupert Brooke’s silly words about spilling “the sweet red wine of youth,” or the vapid recruitment phrases of dying “for King and Country” repelled us. The Duke of Wellington’s despicable term, “cannon fodder”, seemed to us far closer to the truth of how so many died. As a programme note would say: “No commemoration is just that does not bear as well the dreadful physical reality that deprives men finally of all that Home entails.”

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