From the Composer

From the Composer

by Bryan Grosbach In a world that is today continually assailed by tragedies and chaos, there is a desperate cry for peace resounding from every corner of the globe. The text, “Dona Nobis Pacem,” is a phrase found in the Catholic Mass at the end of the ‘Agnus Dei’ section. This phrase, in Latin, translates into “Grant Us Peace.”  Although this text is most commonly known through the popular hymn sung often in canon, throughout time various composers have set it regularly, often when the threat of war or destruction was imminent or had already devastated the land and its peoples.  My own setting of this text follows that similar plea, seeing all of the trials we face on a daily basis from attacks on elementary schools to the misery wrought from the Caribbean to the Carolinas by Hurricane Matthews. “Dona Nobis Pacem” uses two choirs, and is sung antiphonally (facing each other from a distance, creating a collision of sound in the middle of the two groups) to represent the cry for peace echoing from around the world.  The “Dona Nobis Pacem” text is interrupted in the middle of the work by the rest of the Agnus Dei script, which translates to “Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world…” followed again by the Dona Nobis Pacem phrase “…grant us peace.” Special thanks goes to Taylor Martin and the Denver Pro Chorale, for once again championing one of my works.  I hope that through listening to this piece premiered beautifully by the DPC, you are able to –if only for a moment –find peace in your own life, and the strength to move forward through the pain and destruction we now face...

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Kyrie: In Depth with the Composer

Kyrie: In Depth with the Composer

“Kyrie, the last movement of “The people” section of my Requiem, is –as cautiously as I can say it –possibly my favorite movement. This is the moment in which the celebration of the lives of the people passed takes place, and an almost dance-like theme sings out joyously for the future. Some might say this is an odd choice for the text, which translates to “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” In response I’d say that there is a lot of symbolism in this particular movement, and I would love to point some of it out to the experienced and amateur listener alike: The first thing some might notice is the constant group of three that is the building block to this movement; this is not actually only MY decision. In the traditional Kyrie text, the phrase “Kyrie eleison,” is said three times before moving to the “Christe eleison,” which is repeated in the same fashion. This is finally followed up by one more set of three “Kyrie eleison’s,” to complete the dialogue. All of that in mind, the opening of this movement commences with the choir singing two sets of three “Kyrie’s.” ‘But why not three sets to make it follow the pattern?’ you might ask. Hold on for just a moment, I’ll get to that soon! The next section of the movement is a fugue. Traditionally (or at least up to the Romantic Era of music) a Kyrieoften was written as a fugue, or a contrapuntal proof of knowing how to creatively and technically compose in the learned style. For those of you who speak English, it is simply taking a melody and repeating it, sometimes over itself, but often starting on a different pitch. My Kyrie follows (most of) the rules of a fugue, and uses a dance-like theme throughout, changing meters to give it an extra little “Umph!” The People this portion of theRequiem follows are celebrating the life of the deceased, and how they have influenced the future generations! It is a dance of hope for what will come. If there is one part of this Requiem that might get stuck in your head, this is it! The next section, the ‘Christe section’ is no longer a fugue, and turns much more solemn and dark, symbolizing the reflection of the pain and sorrows in the lives of the families of those passed.  This moment doesn’t last for long however, when the tempo suddenly picks up and the choir catapults into the last ‘Kyrie section.’ At this point, the two themes (the one from the first ‘Kyrie section’ and the second from the ‘Christe section’) collide and sound simultaneously, a statement that a good and full life is both filled with...

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Introit: In depth with the composer

Introit: In depth with the composer

by Bryan Grosbach “For those who don’t know, A Requiem Mass is a mass in the Catholic Church offered for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal. It is frequently, but not necessarily, celebrated in the context of a funeral. Throughout the centuries, many composers have set music to the texts used in a Requiem Mass to create special works representing death and mourning. However, in more recent centuries composers have written Requiems as concert works, meant only as pieces of music to be used in a Western Classical Art Music concert or performance; myRequiem is one such work. I wrote my Requiem to represent the voyage of souls after their passing from earth. The piece is written in seven movements using the traditional texts of the Requiem Mass, and can be regarded as three divided sections based upon the perspective the text is being sung from. The first section, titled “The people,” consists of the beginning two movements of the work, which are seen from the perspective of the people mourning the passing of their loved ones. ‘Introit’ is the first of this two-movement section, and is written as a double choir movement (meaning two separate, four part choirs that are singing simultaneously). It is always difficult deciding how to start out the first part of a large work. In this movement, I wanted to create the scene of people in prayer after the departure of their loved ones. The way I accomplished this was by having the second choir create a bed of sound, and then to have a solemn and slow prayer through a melody in the first choir rest atop it. Something I also did in this movement is add a small section where the original Gregorian chant shows up for the first of only two times throughout my entire Requiem –the second appearing in the final movement, to bookend the work with a sense of tradition and historical reverence. Eventually this movement builds to the two bass sections in each choir lining up while fiercely singing, “omnis caro veniet,” meaning roughly, “All flesh returns,” a final and powerful proclamation to the conclusion of life. It is important here to also mention that because three and seven are considered holy numbers (the three parts of God, and the seven days of creation) they hold much significance to the structure of my Requiem through its entirety. After all, it is no coincidence that the composition is written in seven movements that then are grouped into three different perspectives. The ending of Introit is interesting in that it is never quite the same every time it is performed. I like the idea of writing music that allows each performer to make their own decision,...

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Sanctus: In depth with the composer

Sanctus: In depth with the composer

by Bryan Grosbach In Western Christianity, the Sanctus is a part of the Ordinary used in a traditional Catholic Mass, and is a text that has been set hundreds of times by composers throughout the centuries. When set to music, it is a movement that is also often included in a Requiem Mass (Mass for the Dead). Used as the fifth movement of Bryan Grosbach’s Requiem, the Sanctus holds a deep bond with the composer that may not be apparent on its surface: “Sanctus is a piece of work that holds a complex, but resolved, set of emotions in my heart. The text itself refers to the Holiness of God and His reigning illustriousness throughout heaven and earth alike. The text itself is a glorious declaration, and therefore invites a composer to set the text majestically, and stately. At the time of my writing of Sanctus as the fifth (but first chronologically composed) movement in my Requiem, I struggled with a very personal matter in my life that caused me to question my own understanding and faith. It was a crisis that shook me down to my very essence and menacingly aroused internal interrogation throughout my entire being. The word “Sanctus” (meaning ‘Holy’) took on a different meaning in my life at that time, embodying fear and anger rather than peace and divinity. In a composers life, writing music can be more than just a craft; it can be a form of provoked expression, or even therapy. Sanctus was my therapy, and can be tied to the range of emotions at the time that I was writing it. To help you understand, I would love to quickly take you through the piece: Sanctus begins forebodingly, with soloists popping from a murky texture, and eventually moves into a dark rumbling chant. This represents the conflict within me as I began to set out and cope with the calamity in my life. Almost mockingly, the next set of text that states “Heaven and earth are full of your glory,” is set in Bb minor, known as the darkest key in our tempered musical system, and often associated with death or despair; this was the undirected anger that I felt. The piece continues through powerful melodies throughout each voice section and even jolting modulations, escalating in complex harmonies and rhythms to a climactic chord that seems to lift off into the heavens itself; the final cry of anguish that I had left. As the chord dies, there is left a single tone, a profound and ringing tone of unimaginable health and peace. The soloists from the beginning who once represented despair now sing out with new purpose hidden in their repeating melodies: a single-mindedness of hope. Peace seems to spread throughout the cosmos as...

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