A Lesson in Compassion with Requiem for the Living

The dramatic concert (oratorio) work written for a large instrumental ensemble, Requiem for the Living, premiering on Saturday 27 August.

The first performance of Requiem for the Living will be at 8pm at the Linder Auditorium. While a second performance will be hosted at the ZK Matthews Hall, Unisa in Pretoria, Sunday 28 August at 3pm.

The Johannesburg concert will commemorate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s contribution at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (which turns 20 this year). The second concert will honour the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Women’s March to Pretoria. Archbishop Tutu and the South African diva, Mimi Coertse, are the patrons of Requiem for the Living.

Funded by the National Lotteries Commission, Requiem for the Living is an indigenous South African musical composition. It was originally conceived and composed by South African musician Dr Rexleigh Bunyard for choirs, orchestra and soloists, to recognise the plight and raise awareness of AIDS orphans.

Requiem for the Living’s large instrumental ensemble incorporates standard symphonic instruments and some indigenous African instruments. Including two professional choirs – the Horizons Project from Pretoria and Gauteng Opera, indigenous musicians, praise singers and soloists. It will be conducted by Rick Muselaers and directed by the composer, assisted by drama coach Avril Cummins. Scholar musicians from the Music Enlightenment Project (MEP) in Braamfontein will be performing in the foyer courtesy of Adeyemi Oladiran.

Requiem for the Living is an intricately conceived, powerfully orchestrated eclectic mix of local and international musical elements. It notably features Zulu and other indigenous and international language praise singers/poets reflecting South Africa’s richly diverse cultural heritage.

The intent of the work is largely humanitarian and embraces all who have suffered devastating loss. This entirely local creation has two distinct ‘faces’ that are inspired by plights of children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic. Its humanitarian relevance in South Africa, as well as its recognition of human worth at all levels. This includes even the most impoverished or embattled.

Requiem for the Living is a personal response to this human suffering – Dr Bunyard. He is an ordinary citizen with a musical gift and someone who is deeply moved by human need.

Knowing that music moves people’s hearts and souls, I invite others to be moved by symbol and music. To reflect and to respond compassionately. The work I have created is unusual in its concept of being a requiem for the living, rather than for the dead. It does not contain words specific to requiems for the dead. Instead, it challenges, expands and enriches the requiem tradition by recognising the plight of survivors, the children who have been orphaned by the AIDS pandemic. It is intended to draw attention to suffering and loss via a humanitarian exercise in compassion. Which, in turn, promotes a more hopeful, inclusive society.

Requiem for the Living has given rise to an NPO of the same name, with the vision of inspiring a more hopeful and compassionate society. This is through the transformative power of the mythic/symbolic process within music.

Additionally, its designated beneficiary is the Siyakhana Food Garden Permaculture Project (a WITS Health Department educational and entrepreneurial initiative). This initiative supports the needy in the inner city of Johannesburg and specifically addresses the needs of food-insecure children and adults living with HIV/AIDS.

Dr Geoffrey Heald, Senior Lecturer in Negotiation and Deal-Making at Wits Business School was Head of Research for the award-winning History channel documentary film, Miracle Rising: South Africa. This film was adapted from his doctoral research on how it came about that previous enemies were able to learn from one another during the Constitutional negotiations and has been screened to 300 million people across the world.

“For me, it is the aesthetic of music and vision that precede finance and economics. Mainly because these are the first signs of real value. Requiem for the Living is therefore a prelude to, and gives voice to value in these uncertain times in which we live. “

The revenue generated from the two performances will go towards food gardens serving inner city communities.

Vist Computicket for bookings and  www.reqliving.org for more information.

* The featured video is an excerpt of this work, In Paradisum Le Baiser de L’enfant Jesus, performed in the WITS Great Hall in 2008. With members of the (then) Black Tie Ensemble and Rand Symphony (amateur) Orchestra.

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