WW1 centenary commemorated in first requiem by royal composer

WW1 centenary commemorated in first requiem by royal composer

The premiere of the first requiem by renowned royal composer and University of Aberdeen professor, Paul Mealor, will be performed in Edinburgh next month by the National Youth Choir of Scotland.

Composed to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, Professor Mealor has spent more than two years working with poet Dr Grahame Davies to create a ‘reflective and poignant tribute to peace’. 

Davies - who has a successful track record in writing for distinguished composers - has provided the words, while Professor Mealor has written the music for the 40-minute-long requiem for orchestra and choir. 

‘Requiem: The Souls of The Righteous’ will be performed for the first time at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on September 22 by the National Youth Choir of Scotland and Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Bell. 

Professor Mealor describes the piece as one of the most challenging in his compositional career as he felt a great responsibility to create a ‘fitting tribute to those who lost their lives in this war and all wars’.

He said: “Not only is this one of the longest pieces that I have ever written; but, I was also acutely aware of the need to create something that not only commemorates the centenary of the end of World War One, but that is reflective and considers how people today think about conflict.

“The words by Grahame Davies are outstandingly beautiful and celebrate peace and reconciliation. Those who fought in the war undoubtedly experienced horror and pain but through their letters, it is clear that they still managed to find friendship and humanity and I felt it was important to have something pertinent and special to reflect this. I hope this comes out through my music.”

Professor Mealor said writing the requiem has also led him to contemplate just how great the impact of the First World War was on communities throughout Europe. 

“In this centenary year, it is important that we do remember the impact not only of the war but how it has shaped our relationship with peace,” he added.

“From our own University community, there was a battalion of young men who never came home and whose names are inscribed in our Chapel. As a teacher, it is hard to look at my students and imagine them having to face such horror at such an early stage in their lives. I hope the requiem can provide a lasting University tribute to the courage they – and the millions of others from across all nations displayed - and to the ongoing struggle for peace.

“Having the requiem performed by a choir from the first generation to grow up without direct contact with those who knew someone killed or affected by the First World War will bring a fresh dimension and, under the baton of the superb Christopher Bell, I know the National Youth Choir of Scotland and Royal Scottish National Orchestra will make this a very special premiere.” 

The creation and performance of ‘Requiem: The Souls of The Righteous’ has been made possible by a donation from long-term supporters of music at the University of Aberdeen, Margaret Carlaw and Professor Derek Ogston.

The concert is free of charge but must be booked online here