The John Rutter requiem

Rutter was born in 1945

john rutter requiemI am a sucker for a good requiem. The John Rutter Requiem is one of my two favorites.

I’ve sung the Mozart, Faure, Durufle requiems, and probably a couple more. There’s often a certain pattern, to which the composer may add or leave out. The Wikipedia discussion is useful.

I must admit that the Verdi Dies Irae, a theme that shows up repeatedly in the piece, is both one of the most recognized and my favorite single two-minute musical pieces.

While I’ve never performed the Brahms German requiem, my former church choir has sung the fourth movement quite frequently, in English. One of my favorite people at my old church wants the choir to sing How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place at their funeral.

Published in 1985

Still, the Rutter as a whole touches me greatly. Requiem aeternam, the first movement, “opens with a steady beat of the tympani, to which instruments enter, first without a defined key.” And I think I like the musical uncertainty

The second movement, Out of the Deep, begins with a cello solo; I love a good cello solo. The voices join, and they’re low in the register as well. The text is from Psalm 130; I’ve learned that the text is commonly used at Anglican funerals. The quartet from my choir sang it in the autumn of 2021. Ultimately, this could be transformed into a blues piece, and I can hear it clearly that way.

Pie Jesu is the third movement, featuring the soprano, then the chorus. It includes the prayer to Jesus for rest.

The fourth movement, Sanctus, is ” a lively, and exclamatory movement which is brightly orchestrated with bells, flute, and oboe and occasional timpani recalling the passage in Old Testament scripture in Isaiah 6, and the worship of the six-winged seraphim in the heavenly throne-room of God.”

Choirs I’ve been in have performed The Lord Is My Shepherd, the sixth movement. The text, of course, is Psalm 23, scripture commonly used at many funerals.

Finally, Lux aeterna, for soprano and solo, “includes words from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer Burial Service (‘I heard a voice from heaven…’)”

The recording I own is this one.

Christmas Day in the morning

Handel, Rutter

waiting.christmasIt’s Christmas Day. And it’s Saturday. Obviously, it’s time for some more Christmas music.

Let’s start with the probably obvious choice, the first part of the Messiah by Georg Frederick Handel. This is performed by the Dream Orchestra. It was conducted by Daniel Suk on December 3, 2015. I don’t think I’ve linked to this particular version, but I could be wrong. Sometimes, choirs will end this part with Hallelujah, which actually ends Part II, the Easter section; I’m catholic about doing that.

I’ve been in the chorus when this part has been performed in its entirety at least four times. And I’ve been in plenty of choirs that have sung And The Glory Of The Lord, And He Shall Purify, Glory To God In The Highest, and especially For Unto To Us A Child Is Born a bunch of times. I never tire of them.


The version of Gloria by John Rutter I picked was new to me. This was performed by the Angeles Chorale at the First United Methodist Church in Pasadena, CA, on December 15, 2012. This piece is harder than it seems, I can tell you from having performed it twice. My favorite Rutter piece is the Requiem, but it doesn’t fit this season.

I think I used this before. The Alma College Choirs sing The Dream Isaiah Saw. It’s by composer Glenn Rudolph. Recorded live at the 2011 Festival of Carols on the campus of Alma College in Alma, Michigan. I love singing this song.

Here’s Aubrey Logan singing O Holy Night. It was released only yesterday. Your basic last-minute shopping present.

Finally, the title tune, performed by David Arkenstone. This was NOT exactly what I was looking for. Nor were all the versions of I Saw Three Ships I came across. But it’s like other Christmas gifts; sometimes they are very nice, even when they are not what you were expecting.


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Rev. Robert Pennock (1926 – 2019)

The funeral of Robert Pennock will be on Saturday, February 16 at our old stomping grounds, Trinity UMC.

Bob PennockThe third funeral I will sing at this calendar year is for the Rev. Robert Pennock.

At the FOCUS churches service in early February, I happened to be sitting behind Nancy, an alto at Trinity United Methodist Church in Albany. I used to sing with Nancy there until 2000 and “the troubles.”

Nancy enjoyed my familiar voice behind her. It prompted me to say that back in the 1990s, that Trinity choir was really good. And Bob Pennock was a large part of that.

I generally sat near Bob in the choir loft. When I joined the ensemble in early 1983, my choir singing skills were rusty. As the bass soloist and section leader, he was quite helpful in getting me on track.

He and his wife Holly often hosted choir functions at their home. I watched his younger kids, David and Jessica, grow up in the church.

There was a move at Trinity in 1997 or early 1998 to consider changing the organizational structure of Trinity. It was allowed by the United Methodist governing body. But it was Bob who rightly said, “Where are the checks and balances?” The proposed plan, it seemed, gave too much power to the pastor.

As a minister ordained the year I was born, he immediately recognized the potential for usurpation of congregational authority. He voiced what I, who had served as chair of the Administrative Board, had only been thinking.

Someone said, “Give [the new structure] a chance,” and it was passed. Just as predicted by Bob, the pastor achieved more control without accountability, which led to my departure and that of others less than three years later.

I would see Bob only sporadically after that, including at least twice at a small rural church he served as pastor in the early 2000s.

The funeral of Robert Pennock will be on Saturday, February 16 at our old stomping grounds, Trinity UMC. We will sing two John Rutter pieces, The Lord is My Shepherd from the Requiem, and The Lord Bless You and Keep You, music I first learned while I was singing with Bob and Holly.

Requiem of the Week: John Rutter

Go to The John Rutter YouTube channel.


The Requiem by British composer John Rutter (b. 1945) was completed and first performed in 1985. An orchestra, including a harp, accompanies the choir. My church choir at the time performed this perhaps a decade after its premiere, so it was still a rather new piece.

1. Requiem aeternam. Includes the Introit from the Tridentine Requiem Mass and the Kyrie. It starts off so slowly that you may not realize it has begun. But it moves from minor key to major, making it hopeful.

2. Out of the deep. Based on Psalm 130, it may be my favorite piece in the requiem. “It contains a prominent cello solo written in C minor.” Moreover, I think, if it were rearranged, it could almost be a blues piece.

3. Pie Jesu. A motet, primarily a soprano solo, “with only slight involvement of the chorus echoing the words ‘Dona eis requiem, Dona eis sempiternam requiem'”.

4. Sanctus – Benedictus. A “bright, lively, and exclamatory movement which is brightly orchestrated with bells, flute, and oboe and occasional timpani recalling the passage in Old Testament scripture in Isaiah chapter 6, and the worship of the six-winged seraphim in the heavenly throne-room of God.” Sonically, it almost sounds Christmasy.

5. Agnus Dei – as often in requiems, a pleading. Quite stirring musically, especially as it crescendoes.

6. The Lord is my shepherd. A moving rendition of Psalm 23. This “was originally written in 1976 as a separate anthem,” and does stand alone. Our choir performed it as such a couple of times.

7. Lux aeterna. Includes “words from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer Burial Service…and the communion chant from the Tridentine Requiem Mass.” A suitable ending.

The work lasts about 40 minutes.

I know the rap on the composer: “Rutter… is…hard to take seriously, because of the way in which his sheer technical facility or versatility leads to a superficial, unstable crossover style which is neither quite classical not pop, and which tends towards mawkish sentimentality in his sugarily-harmonised and orchestrated melodies.” That may be true of some of his other pieces, but I think this one works well.

Here is a recording of Requiem with Orchestra by St. Matthew’s Choir of Ealing.

Go to The John Rutter YouTube channel – search for Requiem for Rutter’s take on this piece.

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