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Andrew Lloyd Webber

Here are the summaries of Requiem Mass written by Father David Evan for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem

Requiem & Kyrie

The opening lines are based on a passage from one of the books of the Apocypha: 2 (4) Esdras 2: 34-35, 'Await your shepherd; he will give you everlasting rest... Be ready for the rewards of the kingdom, because the eternal light will shine upon you for evermore.' and on Psalm 65 (64): 1-2 'Praise is due to thee, O God, in Zion; and to thee shall vows be performed, O thou who headrest prayer! To thee shall all flesh come on account of sins.' Zion is the citadel of Jerusalem taken by David from the Jebusites (2 Sam. 5: 6-7).  The name came to signify God's holy hill at Jerusalem (Ps. 2: 6) or Jerusalem itself (Is. 1:27) and it became the symbol of the contact between God and men, the point from which salvation radiates and the focus of the Messianic kingdom.  Requiem and Kyrie are taken together and 'Kyrie elesion' is not repeated.

Dies Irae

The Dies irae was not incorporated into the Mass until the 14th century and then not universally.  The authorship is disputed:  very probably a Franciscan and only just possibly Thomas of Celano (1200-55), friend and biographer of St. Francis.  The poet's inspiration for the Dies irae undoubtedly came in part from the Libera me sung at the Absolution following the Mass, which in turn derives from Zephaniah 1:14-16.  The author was also indebted to several other sources, principally the 7th century Advent hymn Apparebit repentina dies magna Domin ("The great day of the Lord will suddenly appear"), 2 Peter 3: 7-11, Psalm 97: 1-6 and Matthew 25: 41-46.  It is in fact a personal meditation  on the Gospel for the 1st Sunday of Advent, Luke 21: 25-36, and its first liturgical use was probably for that Sunday.  Despite its one-time popularity, therefore, the Dies irae has no place in the Requeim Mass and, strictly, being cast in the first person singular, it even offends against liturgical norms which are concerned with the worship of the people as a community.

Nevertheless, the Dies irae was adapted for use in Requiem Masses by the addition of the last six lines, of which the first four are taken from a 12th century (or earlier) hymn, its fourth line being changed from Tu peccatis parce Deus.  The first six verses of the poem describe the judgement (the word of the 4th verse here being repeated after verse six), with the poet introducing himself into the scene in the seventh, asking who will be able to help him then.  As no on can, since all are to be judged, now is the time to prepare for that day.  He prays to Christ who will then appear as the 'King of awesome majesty', but who is now a 'fount of Pity',.  The first reason for mercy is Christ's Incarnation - 'Thy journey'., together with his life-work and death - 'such toll'.  The other reason is the repentance of the sinner - 'I groan like one condemned'.  Being shown mercy, the poet hopes to be with god when the Judgement is over.


The Offertorium is theologically amiss, possibly deriving from a Coptic rite where the reference to St. Michael is in accordance with what is known of Egyptian iconographical art, which depicts the Archangel as weighting the merits of the dead.  In Daniel 10: 13 and 12: 1 St. Michael is represented as the helper of the Chosen People and so his name is well linked with that of Abraham (Genesis 11: 26 and 26: 18), whose obedience for God and faith in God's promises for his future found fulfiment in a countless posterity reaching down through the centuries to the Christian Church, who are the children of Messianic faith.  The Offertorium and the first part of the Sanctus of the Mass are here taken together.  Sabaoth is the transliterated Hebrew word denoting 'armies' or 'hosts'.  it is also to be found in this form in the Te Deum ludamus.


The words of the Hosanna complete the Sanctus text and there here follows a reference back to the Dies irae and Requiem sections.  The Pie Jesus, and heard here, incorporates an adaptation of the Agnus Dei from the Mass, reproducing the cry of St. John the Baptist when he first sees Jesus: "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1: 29).

Lux aeterna & Libera me

The world of the Lux aeterna echo the opening of the work.  Liturgically, the Libera me does not form part of the Requiem Mass, being included in the Rit of Absolution which follows.  It is sung while the coffin is sprinkled with holy water and incense.


by Father David Evan, Copyright 1985

Biblical quotations in the notes are taken from the Revised Standard Version.

Extract from the CD booklets of

Andrew Lloyd Webber -  Requiem

(Decca 448 616-2 DH)

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Revised: 07/01/05 20:36:36 -0400.