I recently attended a program of romantic French music at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Bendigo. Restoration work on the cathedral has recently been completed providing a unique space for performing classical music grounded in the Christian faith. The superb acoustics produced a mellow well-rounded sound.
The Bendigo Chorale was performing under the musical directorship of Elena Varshavskaya. The feature item on the program was Gabriel Fauré: ‘Requiem’. It is believed the creation was almost certainly a musical tribute to his father, who died in 1885, three years before work on the Requiem began.
Unlike many of his contemporaries Fauré had no clear religious beliefs. He said of his Requiem,
“Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.”
In place of the sombre nature of many requiems that had gone before Fauré focused on the supposedly restful and fear-free nature of death. Fauré saw death as a “happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience.”
The Pie Jesu, performed by Melbourne born soprano, Kate Amos, provided a fine example of musical excellence. The rich, soulful melody enlivened the heartfelt prayer,
Merciful Jesus, Lord, grant them rest,
grant them rest, eternal rest.
This is our hope, ‘eternal rest’, and it is made possible through the mercy of Jesus.
But what is ‘eternal rest?’ I’m sure there are many of us who would like to think of it in terms of ‘no more work’ and ‘no more responsibility’. But this is not the case. It is not talking about a life of idleness. Rather, it speaks about an existence where we are no longer burdened by those things that challenge our freedom and damage our identity – our fears, failures, anxieties, disappointments, suffering, and weariness. It is being in the presence of perfect love where honour and dignity, laughter and happiness, purity and peace are ours to enjoy.
At my son Adam’s Service of Thanksgiving I gave a eulogy. It concluded with a prayer: