Notes on A Woldgate Requiem

A Woldgate Requiem

for organ solo (c.8 mins)

A Woldgate Requiem is a solo organ piece, extremely virtuosic in it’s orientation. It was written in response to a tragic road accident close to my home, when I was living in the East Riding of Yorkshire.  A school coach carrying school children from Woldgate School, Pocklington crashed on the way back from school with some children losing their lives and many being seriously injured.  The combination of the proximity of the incident and the fact that it affected local children and families provoked an immediate emotional and musical response in me.

Although not a Requiem in the usual sense, i.e. a setting of the mass, the name ‘requiem’ was chosen to mean ‘music for the repose of the dead’. Although not programmatic, the work does reflect a state of trauma which changes gradually to one of reflection and calm.  There is a sort of journey of the spirit reflected in the musical structure which moves from dissonance to consonance.

Behind the pitch choices is a tonal, or scalic structure which moves from the full chromatic through to the phrygian mode. The six scales used are shown in the following example:


These scales are organised into two ‘routes’ which are allied to two related speeds. In the first, a crotchet equals 110mm and, in the second, a crotchet equals 73mm: they are related, therefore, in the proportion 3:2. The faster speed uses scales 1-4 (the ‘dissonant’ route) and the slower, scales 2-6 (the ‘consonant’ route). The structure of these two routes is summarised below:


The formal division of sections is also based on the ratio 3:2. In the first section of the piece there is approximately 2/3rds of Route B material and 1/3rd Route A material. But in the following, more extended, sections the proportions are reversed: the length of Route A, section 7, is derived from the length of the beginning section multiplied by 3, and the length of Route B, sections 8 and 9, from the beginning multiplied by 2.

The purpose of these formal divisions was to find a suitable structure for enunciating the metaphorical ‘struggle’ between the different musical routes: Route A material is representative of pain, grief, anger and loss (turbulence and dissonance) while Route B represents spiritual awakening, acceptance, forgiveness and resolution (uplifting music, the sound of bells [bars 181-192] and consonance). The idea of a dense section of material in which conflicts are juxtaposed with great rapidity, then later explored more fully, was seen as appropriate to the physical and emotional intensity of this terrible incident and the conclusion, evolving through the natural resolution of the dissonant to consonant progression, was equally evocative of transcendence.

Listen to A Woldgate Requiem as played by Kevin Bowyer on Soundcloud

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