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Rage, rage against the dying of the light

My thoughts this week have taken a sombre turn.

On Thursday the Laudantes Consort began rehearsals for Pierre Bartholomée’s Requiem.

Pierre Bartholomée is one of Belgium’s most well-respected contemporary composers. His Requiem was commissioned by Guy Janssens to be the final work in a series of ‘Requiems through the Ages’.

Bartholomée’s Requiem was inspired by the poignant story of a young Rwandan girl who was fostered by a Belgian family during the genocide. At a certain point she left Belgium and went to live with her mother in the United States of America, where, in uncertain circumstances, she was killed. To heart-rending effect, Bartholomée has included in the Requiem fragments of a letter from the girl, written to thank her foster parents for looking after her.

As we rehearse the Requiem further I am sure many subtleties will be revealed that I have not yet fully understood. What it already apparent, however, is the work’s anger at death.

We have to accept death – we have no choice. But we can be angry rather than reconciled. I am reminded of a friend of mine whose father died recently. Although his death was inevitable, he hung on to life to the very last, furious that he had to leave his wife.

The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas put this into words of great strength. Here you can hear him read his poem ‘Do not go gentle into that good night‘.

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