Amidst ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, it was uplifting to take part in Brighton Voices’ vigil for peace on Saturday 4 November. Over 100 people performed Fauré’s Requiem at this moving and aptly timed event, with visiting singers across Sussex joining the highly regarded community choir at All Saints Church in Hove.
The Requiem has been described as a “prayerful lament for the dead”, noted for its “calm, serene and peaceful outlook.” Fauré himself described the music as “dominated…by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.”
A church of sanctuary
All Saints is an inclusive church which seeks to “give a voice to those on the margins”, including the “homeless and vulnerable”. For the last two years, it has hosted weekly meetings of local Ukrainian and other refugees through its Sanctuary project, run jointly with the Network for international Women. Practical advice and language lessons are provided, as well as refreshments and general support. These meetings have been particularly welcomed by Ukrainians living in Brighton and Hove.
Beautiful strings of white origami doves hang in the church, made at some of the Sanctuary sessions. Before the performance, All Saints’ vicar gave a poignant description of the doves, explaining that they had been made by “people of all ages and all faiths, by Christians and Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and those with no beliefs.” The doves were made “by the homeless and those with homes, by those who have never seen war and those who have known nothing but war.”
After a strenuous but enjoyable afternoon of rehearsal, the well-attended evening performance was conducted by Brighton Voices’ musical director David Stevens and accompanied by the professional musicians of Vaughan Williams Sinfonia. The appreciative audience were “impressed by the committed and polished singing.”
Well-chosen poems by Mary Henderson, a Scottish first world war poet, Emily Dickinson and W.B. Yeats were interspersed between the Requiem’s movements. Solo parts were sung beautifully by baritone Andy Lee and soprano Alma Samocha (the exquisite Pie Jesu). The highlight for me was the tender final movement, In Paradisum, which is sung almost entirely by the sopranos.
The whole event, the venue and accompanying readings and of course the Requiem itself had particular resonance in the light of world events, and it was both inspiring and moving to take part.