2014 Australian War Requiem (AWR) Background

In 2012, SUGC submitted a proposal to the Federal Government through the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board for an original music composition and performance for the WWI centenaries.  That proposal has been accepted “in principle” by the Government, as part of the important national celebrations for these centenaries. The new government will continue with these arrangements.

The work is being composed by SUGC’s Music Director, the Melbourne-born, Vienna-trained Christopher Bowen OAM, who has created a number of successful large-scale choral productions. The libretto for this new work is constructed from letters between Diggers at the front and their mothers in Australia, juxtaposed with text from the Stabat Mater  depicting the grief of Mary at the suffering and death of her son. Mr Bowen has received assistance from the Australian War Memorial in finding suitable material and has made a self-funded visit to Gallipoli and the battlefields of the Western Front, in order to absorb the atmosphere of those places.

The forces required for the work are four soloists, a large chorus supplemented by a children’s choir, and large orchestra.  After the premiere, the work would be available for performance by other choirs around Australia.

As an indication of the choir’s response to Christopher Bowen’s choral compositions, we could quote the reaction to his 2011 composition, “Songs of the Heart”, a setting of 5 poems by Christopher Brennan for large choir and orchestra.  The choir loved learning the 35-minute work, finding it melodious and very finely tuned to the sentiments expressed in the texts.   This work was dedicated to SUGC’s Patron, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, who later wrote of it:

No words could express the immense sense of awe and gratitude which I felt on hearing your superb composition inspired by the poems of Christopher Brennan, “Songs of theHeart”, which you premiered in an unforgettable concert in Verbrugghen Hall on 10 December(2011).