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Andrew Smith

'It unfolds as a continuum of fluctuating textures and shaded emotions in which anger is tempered by resilience and grief ... The piece opens with Introitus - Requiem Aeternam and finishes with In Paradisum, but also includes biblical references to childhood suffering - Herod's infanticide sets the tone - that were introduced with spine-chilling restraint ... a successful meeting-point of Norwegian and British, notated and improvised.' - Financial Times (on the first London performance)

In December 2018, Norwegian record label 2L will release Andrew Smith's Requiem, a large-scale choral work loosely based on the Roman Catholic Mass for girls' choir, organ and improvising saxophone. The work is a choral response to the Utøya tragedy and is performed by the Nidaros Cathedral Girls' Choir conducted by Anita Brevik with organist Ståle Storløkken and saxophonist Trygve Seim. It was recorded in Trondheim Cathedral in January 2018.

Smith had started writing his Requiem score just before Utøya, but after this date his completed work would inevitably mark and bear witness to that tragic day. He comments:

'I had already started writing the Requiem before the events of 22 July took place. It was originally for the girls' choir of Trondheim Cathedral, and because I was writing for young people of a similar age to those who were killed, it was unavoidable that the tragic events should influence the piece I was writing. Several of the traditional requiem texts have been replaced by biblical references to the young: Rachel screaming at the abduction of her children by the Babylonians, Herod's brutal infanticide after the birth of Jesus, and Mary crying at the loss of her son ... all children who are innocent.'

Requiem had its first UK performance on 25 November 2013 at The Sage, Gateshead. The first Norwegian performance was in Trondheim in November 2012. This is the first recording of the work.

Requiem is framed by two works by Ståle Kleiberg - Hymn to Love and The Light. Kleiberg, a professor in composition at the University of Trondheim, has collaborated with Nidaros Girls' Choir on many previous occasions. His works offer a contrasting character to the meditative Requiem and echo sentiments of faith, hope, love and consolation - and light too, when all seems dark.

LUX is the fifth recording by the Nidaros Cathedral Girls' Choir (Nidarosdomens jentekor) and marks the choir's twenty-fifth anniversary. Musical Director Anita Brevik writes:

'Acquiring life skills during a challenging, fragile phase of life - learning to belong, to feel seen and included, learning to build friendships - all of this lies at the core of the Nidaros Cathedral Girls' Choir's mission. We have chosen to mark the choir's first 25 years with a Requiem. An unusual choice, perhaps, but it makes sense, both because the work was written for us, and because it is dedicated to the memory of the young who lost their lives at Utøya on 22 July 2011. Several of our singers lost friends on that dark July day. These events are indelibly etched on our memory. In life there are moments to treasure, and challenges to overcome. In the words of Helge Torvund, "Lyset du treng finst" (The light you need exists).'

Andrew Smith, born in Liverpool in 1970, is a British-Norwegian composer with a growing international reputation for choral and vocal music that links tradition with a contemporary idiom. In the words of Alexandra Coghlan, '... Smith's compositions incorporate medieval textures and chant, which are reflected and inflected through [his] own contemporary idiom, blurring the modal clarity of plainchant with vivid cluster-chords and dissenting moments of chromatic or dissonant color. The effect is at once familiar and unsettling in its strangeness - a distorted and original viewpoint on the past.'

Smith read Music and English at the University of Oslo. His composing, a hobby since the age of eight, began in earnest in the late 1990s when he wrote a piece for Norway's newly-formed Trio Mediaeval. The subsequent recording of this and other music for the Trio brought Andrew to the attention of the American audience and led the way to collaborations with American groups such as New York Polyphony - two of whose discs, to which Andrew contributed pieces, were nominated for Grammy awards - and The Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral, as well as many performances by American ensembles.

Andrew Smith's Requiem, composed for the Nidaros Girls' Choir in response to the tragic events in Norway in July 2011, was first performed in Trondheim in 2012 and made a three-stop tour of the UK in 2013 featuring Wells Cathedral School Choralia (conducted by Christopher Finch) and Norwegian jazz musicians Arve Henriksen (trumpet) and Ståle Storløkken (keyboards). Andrew Smith has been commissioned and performed by numerous Norwegian choirs, including most recently the Norwegian Girls Choir, and Oslo Cathedral Choir, who performed a specially commissioned piece in a nationally televised church service on 29 August 2018 to celebrate the golden wedding anniversary of the king and queen of Norway.

Posted: 29 November 2018

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