David Briggs

Concert Organist and Composer

Choir - Small Orchestra

Requiem (2003)

SATB, Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, Harp, Glock., Timps, Organ with S, T & B Solos

Full Score £20
Vocal Score £10.00
Orchestral parts available £5 each

(47 mins)
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While exploring the tonal resources of a new organ in Battle Creek, Michigan in 2002, I stumbled across the first chord of the Requiem and thought 'That’s it'. I notated the chord immediately on the back of the piece I was about to rehearse. This particular chord is a fairly complicated and open-ended affair, saturated with false-relations and added notes, and is agreeably spiced up in this recording by the gallic flavour of the Blackburn Vox Humana.

This setting of the Requiem was commissioned by All Saints Episcopal Church, Atlanta, GA in celebration of their new 4 manual organ by Jean-Paul Buzard. The work was created during a period of considerable personal change in my life. I like to think of this work as ultimately optimistic – incorporating a rich, post-Debussyan harmonic palette and a continuous sense of melodic development which constantly leads the ear forwards towards ever richer sound worlds. There are moments of intense solace and resolution ('Et lux perpetua' in the first movement and the final section of the 'Kyrie eleison'), considerable pleading (the opening phrases of the 'Kyrie eleison' and the constantly rising harmonic intensity of the 'Agnus Dei') as well as strength of divine intention (eg. the huge unison transformation towards the end of 'Libera me, Domine', where the choir is accompanied by declamatory punctuations on the organ’s tutti – as a powerful interpretation of the 'Dies Irae'). There are moments of comfort and tenderness too, especially in the poignant 'Pie Jesu', as well as sensuous luminosity during the 'Lux aeterna'. The incandescent nature of myriads of angels (encompassing the concept of heaven) is portrayed by a colourful and impressionist orchestral palette, with harp and glockenspiel creating glittering garlands of light, illuminating the Latin 'Sanctus' text. The final setting of 'In Paradisum' is a musical representation of the vastness and total serenity of the infinite, where time as we know it ceases to exist.

There is nothing overtly avant garde about this setting of the Requiem. It could probably have been written well over over 50 years ago. My fervent belief is that it is still possible to say fresh things within a tonal (or perhaps more accurately polytonal) and modal soundworld. Inevitably comparisons might be made with the stunning setting of the same text by Maurice Duruflé (1947) but I would like to cite an even greater influence – that of the improvisations of the great Pierre Cochereau, Organist at Notre-Dame de Paris from 1955-84 and certainly the most dominant influence on my own development as a composer. He was a born improviser and so much in demand as an organist all over the world that he scarcely had time (or inclination) to compose. I like to think that maybe my offerings are similar to those which Cochereau might have written had he had the time (not to mention the computer software…!). The organ interludes in the 'Agnus Dei' are directly inspired from a rare and unedited reel-to-reel recording I have of the great Pierre improvising at Vespers in Notre-Dame at the Festival of the Assumption in 1963. Likewise much of the ecstatic music of the 'In Paradisum' owes its inspiration to Cochereau improvisations with their soaring melodies and intensely moving harmonic progressions.

"Anyone hearing this disc would have to admit that it's still possible to write highly effective music in a tonal, late romantic idiom. French influences are much in evidence here, but that's not surprising considering the composer is also one of today's finest organists noted for his brilliant interpretation of 19th and 20th century French organ music. His recreations of the stunning improvisations done by Pierre Cochereau at Notre Dame are legendary; and, as he points out in his album notes, which you must read, these flights of fancy greatly influenced his requiem. It's a truly sublime effort that has much in common with those of Faure and Durufle. As a matter of fact, there's a reference in the Domine Jesu Christe (beginning at 01:42) to a phrase in the same section of the Durufle. While the Pie Jesu may call to mind that in Andrew Lloyd Webber's requiem, there's just the right mixture of bitter and sweet to insure that unlike the latter it doesn't become cloying with repeated listening, and that's just what you'll want to do! The Libera me, Domine is to die for and the concluding In paradisum, infinitely sublime. Chances are you don't know the fifteen member vocal ensemble Euphony, but after you hear what they bring to this piece you're not likely to forget them. The instrumental accompaniment, which consists of organ and only a handful of solo instruments, is some of the most articulate and highly effective one could ever hope for. That's because Briggs is not only a master of organ registration, but also a consummate orchestrator".(Bob McQuiston, Tower Records)

"Listeners may be disconcerted by the lyricism and gentle beauty of the writing in the Requiem. Introspective and questioning in nature… it strikes a very positive chord for those spiritually rather than religiously inclined. The work leads to the mystically radiant 'In Paradisum'. "
(The Organ, Feb 2007)

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St John Passion (2005)

Duration 1 hr 45 mins. Same scoring as the Bach, but substituting a harp instead of the lute. Bachian textures – French impressionist harmonies – big organ part! Commissioned by Glenn Miller and the Kirk in the Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Detroit, Michigan, in 2006. Vocal score, Full score and Orchestral parts available on request.

2 Fl, 2 Ob, Fag, Harp, Timps, Glock, Harpsichord, Organ, SATB, SATB soloists, Evangelist (tenor) and Jesus (bass)).

Full score and parts available for hire.

(110 mins)
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This large-scale work utilizes Bachian textures – Recitatives, Arias, Choruses, new-composed Chorales, and is infused with intense, post-impressionist harmonies… The lute (as heard in Bach’s setting) is replaced by the Harp, and there is an exciting part for 'Grand-Orgue' (especially in the earthquake scenes). This work received its premiere at Bloomfield Hills in Holy Week 2005, before a capacity audience.

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