Songs for Others: In Memoria returns

November 9, 2021

The 12th annual “In Memoria” concerts will honor and remember all those who died in the last two years. (Herald file photo)

HOUSTON — On Sunday, Nov. 21 at 3 p.m., the Archdiocesan Choir, under the direction of Dr. Richard Lopez of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s Office of Worship, is returning after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19 to the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for their 12th annual In Memoria concert.

The Office of Worship of the Archdiocese invites the public to attend “A Concert of Hope and Consolation,” which will feature the entire 60-voice choir, chamber orchestra, organ and soloists in a special performance of “Requiem for the Living” by American composer Dan Forrest. There are no COVID-19 protocols required to attend the concert.

Lopez said the decision to proceed with the concert “live” was difficult.

“Last summer in June or so, the question came as we approached the fiscal year-end, and budget discussions were taking place. At that time, this pandemic, infections, etc., were slowing down, and it seemed things were finally returning to some normalcy. So, the decision then was to plan on it for November,” he said.

However, as summer approached, due to the new COVID-19 strains resurfacing, he had to re-evaluate.

“What encouraged me to continue with the concert was the clear re-opening of the performing arts in Houston and around the country this fall,” he said. “It was time to get back, or at least attempt to get back to the joy of the most unique and engaging art form of music: singing! We needed to do it. People need to hear it and experience it again.”

Forrest describes his five-movement work as: “a narrative just as much for the living, and their own struggle with pain and sorrow, as for the dead.”

The opening movement sets the traditional Introit and Kyrie texts — pleas for rest and mercy — on a simple three-note descending motive. Instead of the traditional Dies Irae, the second movement sets Scriptural “Ecclesiastes” texts that speak of the turmoil and sorrow that humanity faces while invoking musical and textual allusions to the traditional Dies Irae. This movement juxtaposes aggressive rhythmic gestures with long, floating melodic lines, including quotes of the Kyrie from the first movement. The Agnus Dei is next (a departure from the usual liturgical order) as a plea for deliverance and peace; the Sanctus, following it, becomes a response to this redemption.

The Sanctus offers three different glimpses of the “heavens and earth, full of Thy glory,” all of which develop the same musical motive: an ethereal opening section inspired by images of space from the Hubble Space Telescope, a stirring middle section inspired by images of our planet as viewed from the International Space Station, and a closing section which brings the listener down to Earth.

The Lux Aeterna, which then closes the work, portrays light, peace and rest — for both the deceased and the living.

Lopez said he heard this piece not long after its premiere in 2015 and immediately loved many aspects of the composer’s compositional style.

“I remember a music review that compared his style of composition as ‘Cinematic’ comparing him to the great movie score composers like Ennio Morricone, Hans Zimmer and John Williams,” he said. “In addition, I liked the idea that he, a non-Catholic, uses the ‘Requiem Mass,’ our Latin’ Mass for the Dead,’ as the foundation of the text.”

Lopez said that, most importantly, he needed to do this piece for the overall tone it reflects.

“It starts with a sense of consolation, reflection (for those souls we have lost),” he said. “But very soon, you feel a sense of Hope. Hope that there is ‘Light,’ as the composer in the final movement ‘Lux Aeterna’ so brilliantly expresses.”

Lopez said that when he heard the piece, he knew he would share it someday.

“This is the day. For me, for us, today, we need to hear and feel as much Hope as possible. This piece is 40 minutes of Hope!” he said.

The Office of Worship is grateful for the generous financial support of the Scanlan Foundation and its president, Larry Massey Jr., and for making this performance possible.

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