Christus-Requiem (revised 2010)

Christus Requiem extract from Part 1, live recording, St Pauls Cathedral .mp3

Christus Requiem extract from Part 1, live recording at St Pauls Cathedral




  • Choral Music


Soprano, Tenor, Baritone soli, SATB Chorus, Boy choristers/children's choir, Narrator - 3Fl(3rdPic) - 2Ob(2ndCor) - 2Cl - 2Bn - Contrabassoon - 2Hn - 3Tpt - 2TenorTb - BassTb - Tba - Timp - 3/4Perc

Commissioned by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Lord Mayor, Court of Aldermen and City of London Corporation in 1972

Part 1: The Passion
Soloists: Roger Martin, Adam Barehan, John Farnsworth, Dennis Hooker, Justin Lavender, William Leigh-Knight
Procession (17th c. Latin hymn)
Chorale (German poem by Paul Gerhardt 1607-76)
Chorale (one verse as before but as a short interlude for organ only)
Chorale (Hebrew)
Epilogue (Hymn for Good Friday attributed to Jacopone da Todi c. 1228-1306)

Part 2: The Mass
Recitative (from ‘le Christ aux Oliviers’ by Gerard de Nerval, 1808-55) with Tenor David Wilkinson
Chorus (from ‘Mortification by George Herbert, 1593-1632)
Duet (from ‘The Dream of the Most Holy Mother of God’ an anonymous 16th c. Russian poem) with Soprano Jessica Bevan and Baritone Russell Smythe
Sequence (the 13
th c. Latin hymn Dies Irae)
Chorus (from ‘Mortification by George Herbert, 1593-1632)
Offertory (a poem by the Czech poet Jiri Wolker entitled Svatek Duse or Festive Day of the Soul) with Tenor Richard Justyn Lewis
Angus Dei with Soprano Shirley Siggins
Chorus (from ‘Mortification by George Herbert, 1593-1632)
Solo and Chorus with Tenor Justin Lavender

The birth of an Oratorio
Patric Standford explains, 'It all began in 1969 as a short piece of music I wrote for a remarkable choral conductor called John Alldis, who exerted a demanding technique on his choir, the unwritten motto of which (he told me) was ‘ the difficult we sight-read; the impossible takes a couple of rehearsals’. The piece was a setting of Stabat Mater, the prayer offered by the Mother of Christ at the foot of the cross as she held vigil during His last few hours. For me it became a musical devotion that I felt could be dedicated to anyone enduring the final hours of life on earth.   

I had at that time been a professor of musical composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London for only a couple of years. The principal of the School, Allen Percival, heard the piece, and asked me if it would be possible for me to expand it, making of it a large-scale Easter Oratorio into which the entire resources of the School could be concentrated. This not only meant a large choir, a specialist ‘chamber choir’, all the School’s orchestral players and brass band, but also a team of students from the drama and dance department – as well as the thirty-odd treble voices of the junior music school choir.   

And so it became my Christus-Requiem, a huge two-hour Easter performance that filled St Paul’s Cathedral for an evening in March 1973. In the crowded audience were the Chief Rabbi and the acting head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Monks from Ealing Abbey alongside a contingent of Chinese Bhuddists, and perhaps representatives of other religions, for the School had a large mixed body of Oriental students.  

I decided to devote the first half to a dramatic representation of the crucifixion in which I could mix German Protestant chorales with Catholic Latin hymns, quotations from the Christian Gospels, the Apocrypha and Thomas à Kempis as well as Hebrew and Aramaic texts. The second half would be a meditation ‘in many tongues’, using poems in French, German, Russian, Italian, Latin and Czech (I had to stop somewhere!).   

There were a few challenges. The most pressing was a representation by members of the student’s Christian Union who, having attended the first full rehearsal, said they did not wish to be a part of Pilate’s crowd that called for Christ’s crucifixion. A small group did not wish to take part in a performance in a Cathedral. When I came to proofread the programme, it was apparent that Psalm 22, for which I used the original Hebrew, was printed upside-down!  

The good offices of the School’s staff and the City of London Fathers, whose support was invaluable to the enterprise, worked gentle magic to resolve these – and several other complications – both inter-faith and musical - amicably. The performance was a huge success for the City of London and its famous School.

The performance was attended by dignitaries from the City of London and many European choral organisations. It created wide interest and gained awards from Hungary, France and the once valuable Yugoslavian Solidarity Arts Award 1974 following a performance in Skopje.'

The revised score for Christus-Requiem has been completed after much detailed work intended to reduce the vast forces employed in the original performances to something more practical, while still preserving intact its sequence and spirit of events. It is dedicated to the memory of the school's principal Allen Percival, and to Harold Dexter and John Aldiss, all tireless supporters of the huge enterprise. It also gratefully recognises the immense commitment of the staff and 280 students who were involved in that original production.

Written in 1972, fully reduced and revised 2010.




Christus-Requiem First Performance

28th March 1973

Soloists: Roger Martin, Adam Barehan, John Farnsworth, Dennis Hooker, Justin Lavender, William Leigh-Knight, David Wilkinson, Jessica Bevan, Russell Smythe, Richard Justyn Lewis, Shirley Siggins.

Students and staff of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in full choral forces, chamber choir, soloists, children from the junior department, drama and dance departments, two brass bands and full orchestra.

Chamber Choir – John Alldis; Graduate Course Choir – Harold Dexter; Junior Exhibitioner’s Choir – Robert Vincent; Mime Dancers – Ernest Berk; Symphony Orchestra – Yona Ettlinger; Pianist and repetiteur – Patricia Williams; Choreographer – Ernest Berk; Organist Harold Dexter; Conducted by John Alldis