Introduction by Paco Peña
Flamenco music, stemming from a folk tradition of a region of Southern Spain, has nevertheless become, in its development, a complex art form that deals in a whole gambit of strong human emotions; as such, it is able to approach musical endeavours that may otherwise seem surprising to some, given the normal perception of the art. One such endeavour is this Flamenco Requiem. In fact, I would never have thought of doing it, had it not been for the kind, warm prompting from the Salisbury Festival Choir, and specially its conductor, Howard Moody, after our collaborations in the past performances of my Misa Flamenca.
Although the piece enjoys the collaboration of a classical choir it is nevertheless a flamenco work and so most of its parts are structured in traditional flamenco forms. So, basically, the classical choir will be singing flamenco if, perhaps, sometimes I have enjoyed letting the beauty of the classical approach predominate.
In writing the piece I have, by and large, followed the traditional form of the Requiem Mass, including almost the entirety of the 'Dies Irae' poem, which I have adapted to flamenco songs; however, when I learnt that the theme for the 2004 Salisbury Festival was 'In praise of Earth', I found it a happy coincidence, as I sympathize strongly with that idea, and I felt it offered me an opportunity to state so in my work.
I immediately sought the help of my knowledgeable friend on the subject, Peter Bunyard, who was, as always, very happy to collaborate and to whom I am forever grateful. He provided me with material, including writings by Homer, from which I extracted most of the songs that make up that section of the Requiem. Although its title stands, the work has been inspired by more than one tradition, including the pre-Christian stanzas and themes of Homer introduced to me by Peter.
Mankind cannot but rely on the earth and its resources for its survival and happiness. It is clear that we must praise nature but also make sure that we protect it from the abuses that we are inflicting on it. A symbolic day of judgement, wrath and punishment may be what we can expect from Mother Nature for some of our actions; perhaps we are beginning to experience it even now! I want to point these things out, but I also want to express hope that some wisdom will direct our activities in the future. The future belongs to our children and a child, in the end, aspires to participate in that which is coming; in what exists now but also in what will exist later. It is my aspiration that that happy continuity, that feeling of optimism will hopefully be experienced when listening to the music.