Dunedin Town Hall, Dunedin

19/10/2014 - 19/10/2014

Dunedin Arts Festival 2014

Production Details

“Requiem delivered with primal passion” – NZ HERALD 

Requiem for the Fallen is a powerful and moving musical drama written in commemoration of World War I by composer Ross Harris, Poet Laureate Vincent O’Sullivan and taonga puoro composer Horomona Horo. 

The work interweaves text from the Requiem Mass with poetry, taonga puoro and string quartet. The New Zealand String Quartet will be joined by the chamber choir of Voices New Zealand along with Horomona Horo and tenor Richard Greager in this wonderful concert conducted by Karen Grylls. 

This is a real reflection upon New Zealand’s remarkable role in World War I and the effect it has had on the entire country over the past 100 years. 

Commissioned for the 2014 New Zealand Arts Festival, Requiem for the Fallen, will have its second performance in Dunedin. The Town Hall will be reconfigured in a dramatic and unique way to stage this work on the final afternoon of the Festival. 

Sun 19 Oct 3pm
Dunedin Town Hall
Duration 1 Hr 20 Mins
Circle $45 /$40
Student $30
Stalls $30

1hr 20mins (no interval)

Stunningly impressive and emotionally draining

Review by Brenda Harwood 20th Oct 2014

The fate of the more than 18,000 New Zealanders, who died in World War 1, is lamented in the extraordinary, powerfully moving Requiem for the Fallen.

Jointly created by leading New Zealand composer Ross Harris and taonga puoro (traditional Māori instruments) specialist Horomona Horo, with words by Poet Laureate Vincent O’Sullivan, the work received its South Island premiere at Dunedin Town Hall on Sunday (October 19.

The spellbinding performance is presented by the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir, the New Zealand String Quartet, Horo and tenor Richard Greager, conducted by music director Karen Grylls.

Before the performance of Requiem for the Fallen, the scene is set through a carefully selected series of beautiful, melancholy works.

The exquisite skill of the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir is showcased in three a capella works: ‘Hear My Prayer, O Lord’, by Henry Purcell, ‘O Sacrum Convivium’ (‘O Sacred Banquet’) by Olivier Messiaen, and ‘Drei Geistliche Gesange’ (‘Three Sacred Hymns’) by Alfred Schnittke. Filled with glorious, interwoven harmonies, these are a breathtaking taste of what is to come.

The New Zealand String Quartet also presents its own beautiful, expressive performance of Samuel Barber’s lovely Adagio for String Quartet. 

Presaged by the haunting strains of taonga puoro and a Maori introduction by Horo, Requiem for the Fallen is an intriguing mix of elements of the classic requiem mass and O’Sullivan’s evocative descriptions of the soldiers’ experiences. The gentle ‘Agnus Dei’ (‘Lamb of God’) segment is a particularly
fine example of this, leading into the startling, thunderous ‘Dies irae’ (‘Day of wrath’) with its terrible battlefield imagery.

The way in which Requiem for the Fallen weaves chorus, string quartet and taonga puoro together to tell a cohesive story, of young men leaving home in high spirits to go off to war and the horror of their experiences on the front, is impressive and a testament to the skill of director Jonathan Alver. The sheer beauty and sadness of the music and the historic images of young New Zealanders in wartime adds a poignancy that makes the work deeply emotionally affecting.

The performance of Requiem for the Fallen by the Chamber Choir of Voices New Zealand, the New Zealand String Quartet, Horomona Horo and Richard Geagar is exemplary in every respect, and more than that, is clearly heartfelt. The result is a work that is both stunningly impressive and emotionally draining.

In the midst of World War 1 centenary commemorations, Requiem for the Fallen is a devastating commentary on the ravages of war. Lest we forget.


Editor October 24th, 2014

The skill of director Jonathan Alver has now been acknowledged in this review. Apologies for missing it in the first place.

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