Arts & Entertainment

Paul Stanhope: A New Requiem

After over 20 years award-winning composer and former Sydney Chamber Choir Music Director Paul Stanhope is set to unveil his latest work, a requiem dedicated to Richard Gill and Russell Mills.

Creating such a large, momentous and important piece has certainly been a passion of love for Stanhope, and one which he has taken great pride in capturing the memories of the men in the veery essence of the music.

“I tried to capture elements of the people who commissioned or are being commemorated in the piece,” explained Stanhope. “In regards to Russell I’ve tried to capture some of his social justice concerns in the piece, in subtle way. The Sanctus is dedicated to Richard Gill to celebrate his life, and that one really does reflect elements of the person. The Sanctus is a really exuberant and uplifting hymn of praise to match with Richard’s outgoing personality and extrovert nature. It also celebrates his amazing life work.”

Reflecting on the composition of such a grand piece over the course of such an extended period was actually something which Stanhope explained was actual crucial to it success. 

“Requiems take a lot of conceptual thinking to consider what are the meanings behind the music. So I don’t think I could have don’t that when I was 29-30, they require a level of maturity to undergo that journey and this piece has allowed me to have a conversation with my older self and more recent self.”

Obviously though after over 20 years of working on the piece the sense of accomplishment to have finally completed the work was immense, even if it was hard to ultimately distinguish when exactly that moment occurred.

“I’ve got enough experience now to know that when I get to the double bar line the piece is still not finished,” said Stanhope. “There was a process where once the piece was ‘finished’ it was still unfinished until I had done further revisions. So it was nice to be able to put some movements in the drawer and return to them later to give them a bit more work. Eventually though you get to a point where you think ‘I don’t think I can do anymore to this’ and that is when it’s time to let it go. Although, I am still doing a few small tweaks in rehearsal.”

With a requiem traditionally being a piece of music reserved for a funeral service we wanted to clarify whether that meant the piece was inherently dark or somber, to which Stanhope answered, “There are certainly elements of sadness but there are also elements which are celebratory or give hope and optimism alongside the more reflective moments about grief. Ultimately the music is uplifting even though the themes may be somewhat somber with the end result being a celebration of life.”

Mar 13. City Recital Hall, 2 Angel Pl, Sydney. $50-$75+b.f. Tickets & Info: