The world has been shaken in the last few years, from the global COVID pandemic and its deadly toll, to extreme storms and weather events that have burned, flooded, drowned and buried entire communities.
Is it possible that so much loss can inspire a work of new classical music and offer a healing experience?
Yes, it is.
On Sunday, Nov. 5, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Tustin will present “Requiem for All Saints,” a composition that will “call listeners to both acknowledge their grief and turn toward renewed hope,” says its composer, the Rev. David P. Milligan, music director at St. Paul’s, and co-founder of Refresh on the Mountain in Lake Gregory. The music’s debut will accompany St. Paul’s 10:15 a.m. worship service on All Saints’ Sunday, a service that celebrates one of the principal feast days of the church year and commemorates “all saints, known and unknown.”
With Milligan conducting, the piece will be presented by the chancel choir with baritone soloist Jim Campbell and accompanied by strings, Keith Popejoy on French horn, piano and timpani. Campbell is a SAG/AFTRA studio singer, performer and vocal arranger. Among his numerous credits are Frozen, La La Land, The Simpsons and Righteous Gemstones. Popejoy has been the principal horn player with Pacific Symphony since 2004.
The new work hews to the main hallmarks of a requiem. As is tradition, it is shaped around the Mass and includes some familiar language – “grant to those we love, eternal rest.” But there are new themes, as well. Milligan intentionally created a more hopeful composition.
“It is my belief that all people return to God, that our souls are never separated from the Holy,” he said. “I hope that it gives us an opportunity to explore the continuity of life and eternal life.”
The inspiration for the requiem was largely home grown. For years, Milligan had pondered the idea of a requiem Mass with the St. Paul’s community and chancel choir in mind. Parishioner George Turner mentioned the possibility of commissioning one to honor his late mother, longtime choir member Sally Turner. After the snowstorm that devastated his mountain community, Milligan took a delayed vacation and, in his reflections on the loss of life, the ideas clicked together while he was just taking a quiet walk.
“Suddenly I knew what I wanted to accomplish with a requiem, textually and musically,” he said. He soon dove into a three-month process of composing and writing.
Now it is ready. He imagines the requiem will be different for everyone. “Each death or loss comes with a different kind of grief,” he says. But all, he hopes, will experience peace, love, light and joy. “That is the center of this requiem.”
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is located at 1221 Wass St. in Tustin. All are welcome at any of its worship services. To learn more about St. Paul’s, please visit stpauls.org.
For additional information about the Requiem for All Saints, please contact David Milligan at [email protected].