Surrey Heath Singers presented the Fauré Requiem as part of the Requiem Eucharist for All Souls’ Day at St Peter’s Church Frimley. The service, led by Canon Stuart Thomas, was held on Saturday evening, the 2nd November to enable the community of Surrey Heath to remember those of all creeds and faith who have died recently.
The Fauré Requiem was sung in Latin in a liturgical setting as the composer intended for his original score, including the liturgy of the Sacrament, at the fashionable Church of the Madeleine in Paris. The version used on this occasion was the 1893 “grander” version in seven movements edited by John Rutter. Saint Peters Church in Frimley provided an atmospheric context for performance, coincidentally decorated for Remembrance Sunday with giant red poppies and brightly lit.
The Conductor, Andrew Phillips and the Surrey Heath singers were accompanied by Stuart McSweeney on the organ. The texts set to music come from the old Latin rite in which there was considerable emphasis on judgement after death. In recent years the liturgies of most parts of the Church have come to stress other aspects of death; resurrection, new life and the Vision of God. The Fauré Requiem reflects these themes in music with inspiring arrangements for four parts.
Most of the choir performed from the apse behind the altar, but the sopranos sang from the gallery overlooking the congregation to great effect, emphasising the heavenly chords of the Introit and Kyrie, the Agnus Dei and In Paradisium. The passages between the sopranos and the tenors of the Sanctus reciprocated well, building to a climax in the grand Hosana before tailing away with a unanimous Sanctus. The simple strain of the Pie Jesu was enhanced by the remoteness of the sopranos in the gallery. The more strident passages allowed tenors, basses and altos more exposure and a better harmonious balance which appeared to work effectively with the sopranos aloft. The liturgical setting made the service a rich spiritual and musical experience with the music dictating the mood and providing a compelling narrative through the original Latin rites,
The liturgy was enhanced by a plainsong chant from Graduale Romanum seeking “absolution for the souls of the deported from every bond of sin to escape avenging judgement and enjoy the blessedness of everlasting light”.
The congregation of more than 150 expressed their appreciation after the service in many personal comments to the members of the Choir and to the clergy. The engagement for Surrey Heath Singers represents one way in which the society supports the community to bring richness of musical culture to events by bringing dignity and passion to occasions that need to be recognised in the public consciousness.