Danielpour's "American Requiem"

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

On today’s date in the year 2001, the Pacific Symphony premiered a new choral work by the American composer Richard Danielpour. Titled “An American Requiem,” its text in part was based on the traditional Latin mass for the dead, but included as well excerpts from American writers such as Emerson and Whitman on themes of life and death.

In 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II had prompted many Americans to reconsider the sacrifice of American veterans, the so-called “Greatest Generation.” Danielpour conducted informal interviews with World War II vets, as well as veterans of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. “I found myself in the presence of individuals with an integrity and nobility of heart that I had rarely seen in my own generation,” wrote Danielpour, after finishing his “An American Requiem.”

On the morning of September 11, 2001, two months before its scheduled premiere, Danielpour received a delivery of the orchestral parts of his new work to correct. Looking at his score, Danielpour realized he had forgotten to inscribe a dedication on its title page, and called his publisher in New York to discuss the matter. He ended up talking to someone who, from her office window, had just seen the second jetliner slam into the World Trade Center. “In the ensuing days as I edited and finalized the score of my work, I had, in the most disquieting way, found my dedication.”