How do you write a Requiem in the year of 2016? After much thinking and procrastination, I realized that for me, there could only be one honest answer to that question, having received a commission to write such a composition in this time of turmoil and human suffering as we experience the most severe migration crisis in Europe, where families are torn apart following war and terror in their native countries. I could not write this piece without taking all of that into consideration, living in an extremely wealthy country that first welcomed everyone in need of our help, then suddenly shut the door on them.
I have chosen to set my Requiem to the classical mass text, incorporating the Gregorian melodies, but also giving the different movements a sub-title to create a parallell narrative telling the story of a refugee family. While the piece reflects my own faith and sometimes the ambiguity that comes with it, it is also possible for the listener to imagine the story of this family, torn apart in war and terror, through prayer (Kyrie), hope (Sanctus) and sacrifice (Agnus dei) on a journey towards reunion (Lux aeterna). Parts of the work, which was written for string orchestra, piano and voices, features double choir, where one choir sings exclusively minor harmony and the other only major, perhaps conveying my own ambivalence towards the subject of death.
The Requiem was commissioned by the Swedish Church’s congregation of Haga, Göteborg, and will be premiered by the Haga Motettkör, musicians from the Gothenburg Opera Orchestra and pianist Svetlana Beliakovskaia under the direction of Ulrike Heider in Haga Church on November 5. The artwork for this project was created by Anders Nyberg.