requiem for a generation

Jeffrey Ryan
Jeffrey Ryan
Composition Date: 2012
Duration: 01:00:00
Genre: Four Voices, With Full Orchestra / Chorus


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 2 x Flute
  • 2 x Oboe
  • 2 x Clarinet
  • 2 x Bassoon
  • 4 x Horn
  • 2 x Trumpet
  • 3 x Trombone
  • 1 x Tuba
  • 1 x Timpani
  • 2 x Percussion
  • 1 x Harp
  • 1 x Soprano
  • 1 x Mezzo Soprano
  • 1 x Tenor
  • 1 x Bass
  • 1 x Children's chorus
  • 1 x Mixed chorus
  • 1 x Unspecified bowed strings
Instrumentation Set Number 2:
  • 1 x Soprano
  • 1 x Mezzo Soprano
  • 1 x Tenor
  • 1 x Bass
  • 1 x Children's chorus
  • 1 x Mixed chorus
  • 1 x Full orchestra
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Programme Note:
Most of us, certainly those of us in North America, experience war from a safe distance, through what we see on television and read in the media, while the reality of war happens far away. Poet Suzanne Steele, however, gained a unique firsthand perspective on war. As Canada’s first War Poet, Steele joined the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in 2009 during the war in Afghanistan, documenting her experiences in her poetry and at She saw the fear, the belief, and the sacrifice. She met people who did not come home alive. She met people who did come home, but broken, to a life shattered by post-traumatic stress disorder. She met their families, mourning, powerless. Her writings and experiences—stories we do not see on television or read in the media—provide the foundation for this hour-long concert work by Canadian composer Jeffrey Ryan.

Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation is scored for four soloists, adult and children’s choruses, and orchestra. There is a centuries-long tradition of setting the Catholic Mass and Requiem texts to music, which over time expanded from a purely liturgical context to the concert hall. Though a listener familiar with the Requiems of Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré will recognise the titles and overall shape of its nine movements, Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation uses very little of the traditional Latin text, in excerpts chosen to highlight Steele’s powerful and vivid contemporary poetry in English, French, and the Afghan language Pashto.Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation opens with an evocation of the space and calm of the North, and a prayer for healing lifted up to the starry night sky of the winter solstice. It quickly comes back to earth, and to Afghanistan, with the fractured memories of a soldier suffering from PTSD, living in the present but tortured by the past, the sound of helicopters ringing in his ears. As the work unfolds, a young soldier writes home during a cold Afghan night, the voices of parents and children echoing in his mind. In the Day of Wrath, apprehension turns to catastrophe seen first in slow motion, gradually speeding up to real time as a soldier, critically injured by an Improvised Explosive Device, is airlifted to emergency care. A lover mourns. A soldier is killed two days before the tour of duty ends. A body returns home. Two soldiers tell their story of a lamb. Children play, voices of light evoking a flock of birds flying freely overhead. A medic is overwhelmed by mounting casualties. A soldier seeks to be made whole again. In the final movement, the choir looks to an unknown future as the soloists remember past sacrifices, all coming together in a closing appeal for rest and peace.Almost every generation has its war (or wars) that it carries as a scar forever. For Steele, this work is “a love letter. Not just to one person…but to each of us, to our country, and to a generation that will be paying for this war emotionally or financially (looking after the injured and next of kin) for another generation.” Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation marks one particular war for one particular generation, but its message is universal and timeless.

Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation was commissioned by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in partnership with One Yellow Rabbit, with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts, and residency assistance from the Banff Centre for the Arts.

Programme note by Jeffrey Ryan.

Premiere Information:
Calgary, Alberta
Jack Singer Concert Hall
Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic Chorus Cantaré Children’s Chorus Zorana Sadiq, soprano Rebecca Hass, mezzo-soprano Benjamin Butterfield, tenor Tyler Duncan, baritone
Roberto Minczuk, conductor


  • Call Number:
  • MV 4500 R988af
  • Genre:
  • Four Voices, With Full Orchestra / Chorus
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • January 29, 2014
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (201 p.) ;
    201 Pages
    Height: 43 cm
    Width: 28 cm
  • Language Information
  • Language of libretto: English
    Language of libretto: French
    Language of libretto: Latin
    Language of libretto: Pushto
  • Additional Information:
  • 1. Requiem Aeternam
    2. Kyrie
    3. Dies Irae
    4. Offertorium
    5. Sanctus
    6. Agnus Dei
    7. Lux Aeterna
    8. Libera Me
    9. In Paradisum
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