David Fisher - Requiem



4 Trs, 2 Troms, Bass Trom, Tuba, Organ, Percussion (4 players): timpani [3], snare drum, tenor drum, bass drum, tom-toms [4], tubular bells, crotales [can be substituted], triangle, cymbals, suspended cymbal, celeste, glockenspiel, vibraphone, tam-tam.

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David Fisher - Requiem

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Requiem for mixed choir [up to SSATBB] reader [movement 9 only], brass ensemble, organ and percussion

The première performance of “Requiem”, dedicated to the composer’s mother and father, was at Holy Cross Church Daventry by the Daventry Choral Society conducted by Giles Turner on 31st March 2001. The organist was Tom Corfield and the solo trumpet was created by Alex Caldon. These two musicians recreated their parts in the Derby Choral Union performance of “Requiem” at Derby Cathedral on 16th November 2002 conducted by the composer. The commission of the Requiem, which was made possible by generous support from Daventry District Council and Millennium Fund Awards For All, specified that the work should be a companion piece to John Rutter’s well-known “Gloria”.

This Requiem is not a standard setting of the Requiem Mass. It comments on the journey towards death and the effect of death upon those left behind. In the first movement death is imminent. Movements 2 – 8 are reflections on death and show how one can find solace in familiar and unfamiliar words. The dichotomy between anguish and everlasting peace of the person approaching death is highlighted in these movements. Movement 9 reflects on the immediate aftermath of death and Movement 10 shows the spirit departing its earthly life.

Review of David Fisher’s REQUIEM by Neil Crutchley [Leicester Mercury Music Critic], Daventry Choral Society, 31st March 2001, Holy Cross Church:

“This concert featured three unusual things. The first was a world premiere, the second was a standing ovation and the third was the fact that the standing ovation was for the world premiere. Very, very rarely nowadays does the first performance of a classical work receive a rapturous response but David Fishers Requiem, specially commissioned by the Daventry Choral Society made such an impact that within seconds of the closing bars dying away, the capacity audience was on its feet cheering.

There is no doubt that the response was well deserved. This composer knows how to engage with the listener. In a work lasting the best part of an hour, there isnt a dull second. It is an unconventional setting that combines the standard words of the Requiem text with hymns and poems. Its emotional feel is more Verdi than Fauré yet every note is firmly entrenched in the English choral tradition so beloved of the composer.

Each of the ten sections was set with a sense of drama, originality and blazing conviction. As always with David Fisher, there is no fear of emotion or sentiment and this helps to give his music its strength and sincerity. The arresting opening with its sudden changes of volume and imaginative use of solo trumpet and organ makes it clear that we are in for a tremendous emotional roller coaster ride.

After the setting of Grieve Not with its change from minor to major representing hope, comes the memorable and powerfully insistent march rhythm of the Tuba Mirum. The sense of sorrow in the Lacrymosa is followed by the anger of the Confutatis, brilliantly conceived with the imaginative use of tom toms and shouts from the choir. The Pie Jesu shows the composers natural gift for melody and the Sanctus his ability to create a sense of exhilaration.

The last two sections wear their emotional hearts on their sleeves with a spoken setting of All is Well to an other-worldly, twinkling celeste accompaniment combined with the hymn Blessed Heavenly Light and the closing setting of Psalm 23 to an accompaniment of Abide with Me from the brass ensemble. The work faded away with a solo trumpeter leaving the stage and walking out of the church whilst playing the melodies of the ten movements in reverse order - a splendidly theatrical and effective gesture.

The carefully rehearsed choir, under the direction of Giles Turner sang with tremendous commitment and enthusiasm and the playing of the organ, brass and percussion group was very assured and polished. The Daventry Choral Society can be justly proud of its excellent commission and its own part in its realisation. This is a work that offers all competent choirs the chance to perform something new and exciting that will be enjoyed by their audiences.”

From one of the audience:   “I thoroughly ‘enjoyed’ – that is the right word: deeply moved would be probably closer to the truth; in respect if David Fisher’s Requiem. I found myself meditating on the lives of lots of loved ones who have passed on – in a positive, appreciative sense and during the ‘Tuba mirum’, I had a very beautiful picture of them all dancing in a pool of light! The music is intensely spiritual… ”

From one of the performers:   “Thank you for your magnificent Requiem and for stretching us to the limits which is, after all, an artist’s true function. … It deserves a place in eternity.”

Review of David Fisher’s REQUIEM by Mike Wheeler [Derby Telegraph Music Critic], Derby Choral Union, 16th November 2002, Derby Cathedral:

“David Fisher’s Requiem is a risky amalgam of styles, ranging from a starkly dramatic opening to a Mahlerian ‘Tuba Mirum’ with an unexpected agit-prop feel to it, and a final section that in the wrong hands could sound mawkish. In a less committed performance’ it could easily have fallen apart, but the Choral Union did their composer/conductor proud…and it emerged as a powerfully moving piece, which deserves to catch on with other choirs.  The singers took the work’s extraordinary challenges in their stride – rhythmic whispering in the ‘Confutatis Maledictis’, exuberant carillon in the ‘Sanctus’. The organ part was in the secure hands of Tom Corfield [and] Kingfisher Brass & Percussion played superbly… Tony Jaggers delivered his narration in the penultimate section with dignity and Alex Caldon was eloquent in the solo trumpet part, realising to poignant effect the music’s haunting final image as he moved through the audience to deliver his last notes under the tower.”

Will Todd [composer] writing in 2002:

“…no-one who has heard his Requiem can forget the power of the final moments as the solo trumpet walks out of the auditorium playing the last notes of the work. It is these magical moments which make true artistic gestures, taking the listener into a different place.”

1. Prologue & Requiem [for GT]

The opening has the solo trumpet, representing the dying person, announcing the imminence of death in a fanfare [the ‘farewell’ theme] that includes a descending scale which becomes more important as the Requiem progresses. The trumpet disappears and the choir sings the first of the evening hymns praying for eternal rest in heaven. This is interspersed with the organ playing the ‘all is well’ theme, a gentle falling figure. The requiem words are ushered in by an ominous march rhythm on the kettledrums which accompanies monolithic block chords from choir, brass and organ. This leads into the requiem theme proper and ultimately the movement ends in a blaze of light on ‘luceat eis’ with brass fanfares based on the requiem rhythm and the ‘all is well’ theme.  

2. Grieve not [for EB]

A movement in which life’s journey is described, the opening trombone music becoming the rhythm of the subsequent chorus melodies. The ‘falling fourths’ under the opening bars and based on the ‘all is well’ theme becomes central to the entire work from this point onwards. The movement of the music from minor to major reflects the hope which follows death.

3. Tuba mirum [for WT]

A jaunty march in which the spirit [the solo trumpet] is welcomed back to friends on earth for a series of movements commenting on aspects of death. This march is the depiction of life carrying on, though the mystery of death and hope of resurrection are important features [see below left].

4. Lacrymosa [for SF]

A mourning movement which is based on the falling fourths figure and the requiem rhythm. In ternary form, the mystery of the middle section with its wide-ranging melodies and muted trumpets is in direct contrast to the early Monteverdi-like opening chords. The final phrase on the vibraphone presages the music of Movement 9.

5. Confutatis maledictis [for TC]

Using only a virtuoso organ solo and all four percussionists, the contrasting elements of these powerful words are set very dramatically with shouted male voices and ending in a ‘battle’ between the timpani and snare drum and, ultimately organ.

6. Pie Jesu [for G & BT]

A calm setting of the famous words. Here the rise and fall of the opening melody is contrasted with the peaceful hymn-like section of the central section.

7. Sanctus [for JMF]

8. Benedictus [for D & GM]

Two movements which underpin the spiritual journey to come. The Sanctus bell can clearly be heard in all of the parts and features the falling fourths idea throughout both movements. These movements, especially the Sanctus and Hosannas, were inspired by the composer experiencing the devotion, excitement and colour on an Easter morning mass at Cefalu Cathedral, Sicily [see above left].

9. All is well [for R & JS]

This movement, in a very much shorter version, was composed in memory of the young and talented clarinettist Robert Hicks for the Farnham Festival 1989 and performed by St Christopher’s School Choir conducted by Richard Stevens who has commissioned each of the composer’s works for the Farnham Festival. This spiritual centre of the work, with the comforting words of Canon Henry Scott Holland is contrasted with the second evening hymn and the two main musical ideas from Movement 1. The narrator is partnered by the distinctive timbre of the vibraphone.

10. The Lord is my Shepherd & Epilogue [for PF]

The work ends with a setting of Psalm 23 [see below right] sung over quiet brass playing the famous hymn “Abide with me” to the tune by William H Monk. Lyte wrote the words in his last three weeks as he was dying of tuberculosis. The return of the ‘farewell’ theme ushers in the choir singing the last verse of the hymn as the trumpet, representing the departing spirit, leaves the band and, playing the melodies of the ten movements in reverse order, processes out of the auditorium to find eternal rest.


This Requiem is only to be performed with the following orchestration [even though one or two movements have been arranged for organ only accompaniment – contact the composer for details] and should not otherwise be performed with any keyboard accompaniment using the vocal score.

4 trumpets; 2 tenor trombones; bass trombone; tuba; organ; timpani; percussion (3 players) [snare drum, tenor drum, bass drum, tom-toms [4] tubular bells [chromatic two octaves], crotales [can be substituted] triangle, cymbals, suspended cymbal, celeste, glockenspiel, vibraphone, tam- tam].


(a) The reader in “All is well” should be off-stage at all times with the voice being relayed by amplification. To have the reader visible will mar the effect that is required. However the off-stage effect is organised, it might be useful to have the reader behind a screen visible to the percussionists who interact with the reader. The flow of the readings should be natural with the percussionists following the reader’s speech rhythms. The conductor should direct only the organ and brass in these sections.

(b) There are three sections in which the principal trumpet should take the part of the spirit. These will enhance the concept of the work. These are in movements 1, 3 and 10. In movement one, trumpet 1 should play its solo in bars 2 – 18 away from the rest of the band, preferably at the end of a main aisle in the auditorium or church. In movement three, trumpet one should process in slowly during the rests, pausing to play the fanfares phrases in bars 4 - 23 which are answered by the other trumpets. The player should be in place by the time the voices enter. In movement 10, trumpet 1 should play from bar 31 in the band, and from 45 – 59 should slowly process down the aisle away from the other performers. The last phrase (bars 60 – 62) should be played in a church porch or off-stage. As the solo trumpet leaves the church or auditorium a follow spot would be effective. However, it would improve the setting and the concept if the trumpet player walks through a ring of light [3000 watts was used in the first performance] and this should allow his/her shadow to fall on the auditorium. The last phrase (bars 60 – 62) would therefore be played on the other side of the light.

1  Prologue & Requiem [T Kelly (1769-1854)]

Through the day thy love has spared us; Wearied we lie down to rest;

Through the silent watches guard us, Let no foe our peace molest:

Jesus, thou our guardian be; Sweet it is to worship thee.

Pilgrims here on earth, and strangers, Dwelling in the midst of foes;

Us and ours preserve from dangers; In thine arms we may repose,

And, when life’s short day is past, Rest with thee in heav’n at last.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine; Et lux perpetua luceat eis.

2  Grieve not [Hafiz (died c.1390) - pseudonym of Shams ed-Dín Muhammed]

Grieve not; though the journey of life be bitter, and the end unseen,

there is no road which does not lead to an end.

3  Tuba mirum - See note (b)

Tuba mirum spargens sonum - Per sepulchra regionum - Coget omnes ante thronum

Mors stupebit et natura - Cum resurget creatura - Judicanti responsura.

4  Lacrymosa

Lacrymosa dies illa - Qua resurget ex favilla - Judicandus homo reus. - Huic ergo parce, Deus.

Gere curam mei finis - Oro supplex et acclinis, - Cor contritum quasi cinis: - Gere curam mei finis

5  Confutatis maledictis

Confutatis maledictis - Flammis acribus addictis, - Voca me cum benedictis.

Inter oves locus praesta - Et ab haedis me sequestra, - Statuens in parte dextra.

6  Pie Jesu

Pie Jesu, Domine, Dona eis requiem

7  Sanctus

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, - Dominus Deus Sabaoth, - Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua. - Hosanna in excelsis.

8  Benedictus

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. - Hosanna in excelsis.

9  All is well [Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918) & W Romanis (1824-1899)] - See note (a)

Death is nothing at all ... I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference in your tone; wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effort, without the ghost of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same that it ever was; there is absolutely unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.

Blessed, heavenly Light, Shining through earth’s night;

Voice, that oft of love hast told me; Arms, so strong to clasp and hold me;

Thou thy watch will keep, Saviour, o’er my sleep.

Earthly work is done, Earthly sounds are none;

Rest in sleep and silence seeking, Let me hear thee softly speaking;

In my spirit’s ear Whisper, “I am near”.

Round me falls the night; Saviour, be my Light:

Through the hours in darkness shrouded Let me see thy face unclouded;

Let thy glory shine In this heart of mine.

10  The Lord is my Shepherd & Epilogue [Psalm 23 & H F Lyte (1793-1847)] - See note (b)

The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing. He shall feed me in a green pasture and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort. He shall convert my soul and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff comfort me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;

Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!



David Fisher - Requiem

David Fisher - Requiem