As a music producer, it’s always exciting and rewarding to record the world premiere of a new work. 

This performance of Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation was a very special occasion, full of pomp and emotion. The audience included military dignitaries and soldiers in uniform and military families, some grieving the loss of loved ones in Afghanistan.   

Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation is the largest commission in the history of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and it brings together 270 musicians onstage at the Epcor Centre’s Jack Singer Concert Hall. Maestro Roberto Minczuk led the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, the Cantaré Children’s Choir and four outstanding Canadian soloists. 

Composer Jeffrey Ryan and poet Suzanne Steele collaborated on the Requiem. Steele was Canada’s first war poet. She had first-hand experience on the battlefield in Afghanistan, embedded with the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. She lived with the troops and got to know their families back home.

Ryan is the former composer in residence with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He’s the first composer featured on the Naxos Canadian Classics label, and his works have received three Juno nominations.

If you’re familiar with the traditional Latin Requiem mass for the dead you’ll recognize the titles of the movements from Kyrie to In Paradisum, but the Latin text is just the jumping-off point. Ryan weaves Steele’s moving poetry into the music. Her words are in English, French and Pashto. You’ll meet soldiers and medics, parents and lovers. You’ll hear the sound of a helicopter airlifting a wounded soldier to hospital and two men on patrol enjoying "the best damn meal I ever ate.”

While you’re listening, you might like to follow this excellent guide to the Requiem on Steele’s website. You can find Ryan’s notes here.  

[Listen] Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation
Recorded Nov. 10, 2012
Jack Singer Concert Hall, Calgary


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posted by Catherine McClelland on Jan 22, 2013