Requiem for the Disappeared (Agnus Dei)

© By Conor Mitchell

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For Conor Mitchell, setting the words of the Latin mass for the dead was the best narrative and the most appropriate response to one of the ongoing nightmares of the Troubles. He describes his Requiem for the Disappeared (2012) as a “musical reflection on the issue of the right to burial. It doesn’t answer any questions, but it does ask some.”

He expanded on this in an interview with Terry Blain for Culture Northern Ireland:

“What the disappeared were deprived of was a funeral rite. The more I learnt about this period, the more I felt I wanted to write a piece of music that would embody the funeral rite for people that didn’t have that. If you’re a composer the only way you can speak about this kind of thing is to write a piece of music about it, without getting political. To say that this is how I feel about this situation. These are Catholic people. I’m a Catholic. I needed to say some things through music about the denial of the right to burial. On a very human level you try to imagine what it’s like for someone just to vanish, disappear ...”

Mitchell’s programme note mentioned some of his compositional means to that end:

“We know ‘rest’ or a note coming to rest as a cadence … This entire score is built around a certain note looking for its place of rest: the search for resolution. I was also taken with dissonance (harsh notes) resolving into beauty or what we call ‘tonality’. This music always finds a place of repose in tonality or (can I say it?) a tune – something we composers are, falsely, trained to be wary of!”

Recording courtesy of the artist

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