I remember when this piece first began to own me. A wretched day at the office, cold November was right around the corner, and I had not yet put the lining of my heavy coat in. I surfaced from the Metro at Ballston, ready to walk the last mile back to my little apartment in Cherrydale. I had been main-lining the Requiem for about two weeks at this point, as Choralis was performing the Requiem in December. I had put my iPod on random tracks so that I could separate the movements for focus purposes, but all I could come back to was that second movement.
Walking up Randolph Street, trudging in the cold rain, knowing that I had a good 15 minutes of soaking rain ahead of me, I focused in on the music, hearing Das Gras ist verdorret und die Blume abgefallen. over and over again in my head. The depths of sorrow and the crushing blow of death. The imagery in my head wasn't quite the right one, but the imagery of the fallen hero in a golden-wood coffin, hoisted on the shoulders of the town's strongest, the winter day causing their breath to be seen in the mists from their mouths, the townspeople gathered behind the coffin in a parade lead by the reverend in his collar, open and reading the bible responsively to the crowd.
It begins with a murmur of drums, the steps of the pallbearers as they fall uneven on the black, wet cobblestones. The men are shifting underneath the weight of the coffin, heavy on their shoulders and heavier still on their hearts. As the crowd files out from the Church to follow the body to the burial ground, the last verse of the service is still on their tongues. Shrouded in heavy black coats and scarves, they are braving the beginnings of winter.
As they arrive at the burial site, they are singing something softer and more comforting to his family, and to themselves.
So seid nun geduldig, lieben Brüder, bis auf die Zukunft des Herrn. Siehe, ein Ackermann wartet auf die köstliche Frucht der Erde und ist geduldig darüber, bis er empfahe den Morgenregen und Abendregen
It reminds them that whatever they pray for in Faith, they shall receive, and that God's promise unto their hero is being fulfilled.
Back they walk toward the town, arms around shoulders, comforting, comforted.
The moment that strikes me is the triumphant song that follows. Aber des Herrn Wort! BUT! The Word of the Lord! die Erlöseten des Herrn werden wieder kommen, und gen Zion kommen mit Jauchzen; ewige Freude wird über ihrem Haupte sein; Freude und Wonne werden sie ergreifen und Schmerz und Seufzen wird weg müssen.
I do not understand why so many choirs do the Requiem in English. The German seems so fitting, so perfect to this moment. Ewige Freude!...
And that was where I lost it, crying, weeping as I walked up the street, belting out the bass line as best I could through the tears. I had lost my grandfather in 2000 to lung cancer. Truly he had been the town hero in lowly Beaver Bay, Minnesota. Served on the town council, built and lost a lumber yard, raised a family of five children despite the cold winters and not enough money to go around. All I could do was say goodbye and hope that the Lord's promises had been honored. And that's when the Requiem started to own me.