A CORNISH REQUIEM / REQUIEM KERNEWEK
music: Jamie Brown
text: Pol Hodge, and sections of the Latin Requiem mass
A Cornish Requiem is a new collaborative choral work for professional, amateur and community choirs, baritone solo, organ and brass quintet, being developed by The Langauge and Music Network composer Jamie Brown and celebrated Cornish poet Pol Hodge with invaluable support from The Cornish Language Partnership. This project has been made possible by a generous commission from The Voices of London Festival, at which the work will be premiered on Saturday 27 June 2015 at St. James' Church, Sussex Gardens (location: roses.winter.kicks).
Jamie's strong family links to Cornwall and fascination with sociolinguistics combined to plant the first seeds of A Cornish Requiem, and a generous commission from Festival has allowed this ambitious work to blossom.
Cornish was widely spoken throughout Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly until the pressure of English language began to erode its use during the Reformation in the 16th century. By the early 17th century, the only Cornish speakers were to be found west of Truro, and even these had learnt English as well. By the 19th century, Cornish had died as a spoken community language – but the 20th century saw a revival the language, as the combination of strong regional support, academic interest and political will led to the adoption of a Standard Written Form. Today, Cornish is classed as a living language, used across the county, and the first bilingual English-Cornish speakers for centuries are growing up learning the language at home and at school.
This is in stark contrast to Latin – a language with a much stronger history and wider usage that is heard on a daily basis throughout much of the world, but which is almost completely dead in terms of conversational use. In this sense, Cornish is more alive, more vibrant and more creative – it has successfully risen from the dead to live again.
Hence A Cornish Requiem – celebrating the triumph of a dead language while commemorating the proud history of Cornwall and the elements, landscape and folklore that built a culture and a language. The piece opens with the performance of a traditional Latin Requiem somewhere in Cornwall, but very soon the elements – sea waves crashing on the rocks, howling winds and dramatic sky – drown out the Latin and a second choir is heard singing Pol Hodge’s evocative new Cornish text ‘Mernans ha Remembrans‘ (Death and Remembrance), honouring all the giants, saints, kings and other protagonists of Cornish folklore. The Latin attempts to compete but is soon overwhelmed completely, although the Latin choir join in the uplifting final movement ‘Remembrans‘.
Please click this link for the full text of Mernans ha Remembrans, and an audio recording by Mark Trevethan.
You can also read an interview with Jamie Brown about A Cornish Requiem at the Voices of London Festival website here.