An American Requiem, Op. 80
Jefferson Johnson, The Lexington Singers
An American Requiem is a 45-minute work for chorus and orchestra, based on Civil War diaries, poems, and other writings. After the initial invocation from the perspective of a Charleston cemetery, the Requiem treats first the premonitions of war in Portents, with the movements “John Brown” and “Sumter.” The next section, Battle Lines, contains only “The Conflict of Convictions,” a large movement portraying the eruption of the War itself. This is followed by the three movements of The Aftermath: “Voices,” individual commentary from Confederate and Union soldiers; “Raven Days,” a setting of a heart-rending poem by Sidney Lanier; and “No More,” a setting of the American Spiritual. The Epilogue consists of "Great Fields, New Soil” and is a sober, but uplifting, hymn to reunification.
There are no soloists, as such, but members of the chorus chant the commentary individually in “Voices.” The orchestra calls for an electronically-simulated hammered dulcimer, and optional extra field drums in “Battle Lines,” to supplement the timpani and two percussion players called for.
Written on a commission from the Lexington Singers, it was first performed by that ensemble and members of the Lexington Philharmonic, conducted by Jefferson Johnson, on November 14, 1999.
2, 2d1, 2, 2 - 4, 2, 3, 1, timp., 2 perc., strings