Caroline Thompson, Director of Music at Wynstones School, shares her story and talks of her students’ response and commitment to the music. The music of the Tsunami Requiem speaks to young people, it is music of their time. Challenging and yet attainable.
In 2011, I saw the first page of the Agnus Dei from the Tsunami Requiem by Chris Williams and I immediately thought ‘Wow, we can do that’. I felt that it was something which would provide a challenge for the pupils, but would also fit into a busy exam schedule.
One of my goals since taking on the role of Director of Music was to find music that all the singers could relate to, that would be challenging and also attainable. This has shifted the relationship between the young singers and the community choir, which I also now conduct. I was convinced that if the young people could feel ownership of the work, and emotionally connect with the subject, everyone would benefit. The Tsunami Requiem has enabled this to happen, and the adult choir think it is fantastic to have the opportunity to come and sing with all this young energy. The Tsunami Requiem has been a work which they have been able to own very easily. Initially they were a little unsure, this was not a traditional ‘big’ showpiece but they became so deeply committed – it goes way beyond simply being a member of the choir.
Every time they sing it, it brings home to them that they have their own lives, their own destinies, but only a plane ride away other children have different lives and the children who experienced the tsunami, a completely different destiny. This music will hopefully be the closest they ever get to such a scale of disaster, but at that moment, when they sing, they have a greater understanding of another nation in turmoil than at any other time. It is so moving that sometimes they can’t speak. The words and the music create the element of experience, as it was written in response to something that the composer was directly affected by.
The music of the Tsunami Requiem speaks to young people, it is music of their time. Challenging and yet attainable.
The Tsunami Requiem is an extremely powerful and emotional piece. It gives you a clear picture of what they went through. You can feel the fear of the children and parents as the wave comes crashing in. It’s been a pleasure singing in the children’s choir and having a taster of what they were feeling. And how many people in the world aren’t as lucky as we are, losing parents, children, friends and family.
I like the tsunami requiem partly because I remember when it happened. But I remember thinking ‘how could water hurt anyone? Now I understand.