- SATB Chorus, Tenor Soloist, Mezzo-soprano Soloist and Orchestra
- SATB Chorus, Tenor Soloist, Mezzo-soprano Soloist, Cello and Organ
- Total duration ca. 48:00
- Written from 2006-2016
- Eight movement work
- First edition premiered in September, 2010 in Port Jefferson, New York by Long Island Voices
The Dies Magna Requiem was originally written as a work in commemoration of the tragic loss of so many of our first responders in New York City on 9/11. But its true essence looks to the future. The “Dies Magna” title I chose refers to a day of huge magnitude within human history, one that brought with it far-reaching consequences. The events of September 11th, 2001, in themselves a terrible tragedy, also revealed a community empathy and generosity that truly attests to the good inherent in the human spirit. I have intended this cycle to be a pathway leading out of despair towards healing, a setting inviting performers and audiences to share as a community and move ahead with a new sense of humanity. It is my sincere hope that the understanding which the Dies Magna Requiem can impart transcends the tragedy we call 9/11 and provide comfort on a universal level.
The Dies Magna Requiem speaks of the depths of an icy void left by the fiery hatred of the horrific acts of 9/11. These acts of death and destruction, all rooted in malice, contrast with the acts of love and sacrifice on the part of the first responders who rushed to the catastrophic scene in lower Manhattan. These firefighters, medical workers and other helpers worked valiantly to champion life and survival in their attempts to rescue victims of all races and religions. They strived to save the lives of fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters of people they had never met. Many of these first responders themselves died under the cold rubble. Although I was very fortunate not to have personally known anyone who lost their life that day, I experienced the same intense reaction as everyone who witnessed the destruction. I felt a deep sense of loss, and a profound sense of emptiness in the days, weeks and months following 9/11. There was a void within me, in the truest sense of the word.
I knew that someday I would create an expression about what I had witnessed. However, it took over three years for me to begin hearing music about this tragic day. Although pain and sorrow do have a song, it cannot be sung until one can sing again. Over time, I found my voice. This is when “De Profundis” began to unfold as the beginning of my song rising from the depths.
In 2006, through several workshops with Gregg Smith and The Gregg Smith Singers, I began tailoring several more songs, including “O Vos Omnes” and “Agnus Dei”. In January 2010, The Gregg Smith Singers performed “O Vos Omnes” in concert at St. Peter’s Church in Manhattan. There is an especially gripping story around “O Vos Omnes”, in which I envisioned the aftermath of the catastrophe as the dust settles. The (metaphorical) towers have fallen. Emergency sirens fall silent. The oxygen tanks of lost firefighters are running out. “O Vos Omnes” (“… see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow…”) marks the moment when the depth of sorrow grips the survivor. The profound reality of tragedy reveals itself. “O VosOmnes” occupies that space which exists before one can move forward. It both grieves and mourns.
In March 2010, I wrote “Lux Aeterna” for women’s voices to express the weeping of heavenly angels as the sound of oxygen tank alarms faded away. The ethereal, minimalistic sound of this music breathes a new type of spirituality into the Dies Magna Requiem as a whole.
“Kyrie”, a tenor aria, was then introduced to the Dies Magna song cycle. Although my original wordless version of this music was composed well before the 9/11 attacks as a plea for peace in time of a very different kind of war, its message rang so strongly in me that I was called to revise it for solo voice plus cello and organ as a sort of personal supplication.
In 2010, a friend posed a challenge, observing that by nature of the subject matter, many of the movements were similar in mood and tone. In his opinion, the work would be more powerful if it offered more variation.
Thanks to this insight, I came to realize that the work was indeed rather one-dimensional, particularly for a spiritual soul. All those years I had been working through my own stages of grief. Only now was I able to accept that there is a better place, whether one believes that place to be heaven on earth or a heaven above. This rebirth of my trust inspired me to write “In Paradisum”. In 2016, “Pacem Religuo Vobis” is being premiered.
So, while the Dies Magna Requiem remains dedicated to the firefighters, rescue workers and first responders of New York City who gave their lives within the 9/11 tragedy, it is my wish that it continue to inspire hope amongst different communities in a very universal way. The movements of the work have been published separately with the thought that each one can also transcend its 9/11 roots and seek to provide comfort to many different people for many different occasions.