Because the Kyrie eleison is a repeated prayer, mantra-like, I chose to set the prayer for mercy to a form that inherently repeats. The Spanish term Passacaglia literally means “alley walking” and derives from 17th-century Spain. Strolling minstrels would walk the alleyways with their guitars and improvise variations to a repeated bass figure, known in later music as a “ground.” Hence, the melodic figure for the Kyrie is sung and resung by the voices, while the lower men’s parts sing a kind of drone/rhythmic pulse. The soprano solo in the Christe, set atop a similar drone, is indicated to be sung in the “style of a Gypsy;” that is, freely and with great musical abandon. I also introduce a kind of sprechstimme, speaking words in a loud whisper-like tone for percussive effect. The movement closes with an integration of figures from the soprano solo with the recapitulated Kyrie.
Following the Anglican tradition, the Psalm is set to a newly composed chant. I chose this compositional method to accentuate the natural rhythms of the Psalm. Solomon’s Song is a study in contrapuntal writing—whereby the voices imitate one another, varying the intervals somewhat to allow the piece to move and grow. The middle section, “I must arise now…” is more fugal in nature; having seven beats per measure allows the text’s own rhythmic dominance. There is a brief reprise of the opening section with a surprise ending, designed to leave this poignant text with an equally poignant musical conclusion.
The Sanctus and Benedictus are built harmonically on an augmented triad, which provides both the tonal foundation for the movements and the basis for the fugal “Pleni sunt cæli.” I set the Benedictus for a solo quartet and once again used the sprechstimme in the final “Hosanna.” I chose to combine the Agnus Dei, Pie Jesu and Into Paradise so that I could bring together all of the separate choral ensembles used previously in the work’s final movement: chorus, quartet and soloist. The alternation of the Agnus Dei and Pie Jesu seemed perfectly natural, and led easily into the Into Paradise, which given the nature of Vicki’s monologue, is set as a simple lullaby. Because I was fascinated with how both the word “Requiem” and “Jerusalem” end with the same sound, the work ends as it began, with the chant-like Requiem melody.