Requiem voor een Levende

Requiem voor een Levende (Requiem for a living One)

With financial support of the Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst
first performance: January 15 – 1989, Paradiso Amsterdam
Charles van Tassel – speaking voice
The choirs Ad Parnassum and Scintilla (choir master: Pieter van Moergastel)
Accordion Ensemble D’Accord
Rijnmond Saxophone Quartet
Pim van der Zwaan/Jacintha Molijn/Ed Koopal – double bass
Nynke de Jong/Leon de Laat/Arjan Roos – percussionist
conductor: Arie van Beek

Until late into the 18th century, a leper was officially ‘declared dead’ by his healthy fellow-citizens, before being banned forever to a leperhouse, usually situated at quite a distance from the town. To this purpose a requiem-ceremony was held in his presence and he was submitted to a number of quite lugubrious rituals.
In part 3 of the Antiquis Ecclesiae Ritibus, a book  by father Edmund Marten, published in Antwerp in 1763, it is explained how this ceremonial expulsion took place in the various towns of Northern France. The expulsion-ceremony held in Bourges and surroundings was used as a model for Requiem for a living One.
Starting-point is the diminished seventh chord (also as far as the rhythm is concerned) that Johann Sebastian Bach uses in his Mattheus Passion when the choir exclaims: ‘Barabbam!’ Two extra notes are added and the resulting six-tones series forms the basis of the whole piece.
This diminished seventh chord can be heard for a long time while it doesn’t change. In doing so its traditional, harmonic meaning is removed. It doesn’t come from nowhere and it goes to nowhere either. It just ìs! Therefore its rhythmic aspect becomes more important.
Sometimes associations with minimal music emerge, but the style of composing has a dramatic dimension that is completely foreign to minimal music.
All emotions that are connected with a funeral service get a chance, from reflective calm to screamed protest.

In 1989 Jacques Bank was awarded the Matthijs Vermeulen Prize (the most important prize for composition in The Netherlands) for this work.
Quoted from the jury’s report (Rien de Reede/Han Reiziger/Joep Straesser): ‘The jury was moved by the means used by the composer to work out this very unusual mass for the dead in four movements, with the expressive and frequently dramatic choir part, as well as the exceptionally individual instrumentation bearing witness to great compositional ability. Jacques Bank has thoroughly succeeded in avoiding those clichés that, considering the historically loaded nature of Requiem texts, must have stalked him at every turn’.


Part 1 – LIBERA ME

Relatives, friends and acquaintances proceed in procession to the leper’s house, singing the ‘libera me’, in fact the final hymn of a funeral service. The acolyte, holding a large cross, leads the way immediately followed by the priest, the celebrant of the requiem-service, in full pontificals. When they arrive, the leper steps outside and the priest recites chapter 21 of the Lavaur Council, which deals with the line of conduct to be followed by church officials in case one of their parishioners should suffer from leprosy. Subsequently the leper’s head is shaved and covered with a black cloth. He wraps himself in the ‘cloth of humility’, also called the ‘cloth of Lazarus’ and is seated in a carrying-chair and carried from his house to the church again, accompanied by the singing of the ‘libera me’.


In a remote corner of the church, at a safe distance from the church-goers, the carrying-chair is put on a bier with on both sides three burning death candles. Then the actual funeral ceremony begins with the ‘introitus’and the ‘kyrie’.

Part 3 – DIES IRAE

The service proceeds with the ‘dies irae’. At the end the carrying-chair is opened and the black cloth is removed from the leper’s head. The church-goers are given the opportunity to say farewell, still at a safe distance. The leper is sprinkled with holy water, the black cloth is replaced and the carrying-chair is closed.


The leper is carried to the churchyard. He leaves the carrying-chair and lies down in a grave prepared for him. The church-goers sing a text by St.Agustine, in which the sick is reassured that the suffering becomes more bearable once he realizes his mortality. Then the priest throws some sand on the leper’s feet, saying that, although he may be dead to the community, to God he is still alive. While the leper is still in the grave, the bystanders comfort him and urge him to have patience by speaking some words once said by the prophet Isaias. Then the leper is seated again in the carrying-chair and is carried to the leperhouse. Standing in the entrance he is once more addressed by the priest, this time in his mother’s tongue, French. With a threateningly raised finger, he is told which rules he has to follow from now on in order to prevent the disease from spreading. For example, he is forbidden to walk in a narrow alley, because touching healthy people will be inevitable. He has to see to it that, during a conversation with a healthy person, he doesn’t talk ‘with a favourable wind’. When the priest has finished his speech, he sprinkles the leper with holy water and gives him his blessing. The carrying-chair is set fire to and the leper enters the leperhouse.


Part 1 – LIBERA ME
A. procession to the leper’s house
Libera, libera, libera, libera me
B. canon 21 of the Lavaur Council
Licet compassivae miserationis effectu diligendi sint fraternaeque charitatis brachiis sint complectendi christicolae, quos divino judicio corporalis leprae morbus exulcerat; tamen quia morbus ipse contagiosus exsistit, et serpit in sanorum corpora per contactum; nos volentes eorum communionis periculo praecavere, statuimus ut leprosi hujusmodi a sanis christicolis maneant sequestrati, nec communes intrent ecclesias, neque forum, aut macellum, vel tabernas, sive alia loca sanis communia, nec pannos portent virgatos seu coloratos, nec pilos, aut comas, nec sepeliantur cum sanis, signaque in vestibus deferant, per quae a sanis patenti differentia cognoscantur per diaecesanos ordinanda, quodque per ordinarios compellantur ad observantiam praedictorum.
C. dressing of the leper
D. procession to the church
Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna, in die illa tremenda: quando caeli movendi sunt et terra: dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo, dum discussio venerit atque ventura ira. Quando caeli movendi sunt et terra. Dies irae, dies illa, calamitatis et miseriae, dies magna et amara valde. Dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna, in die illa tremenda
Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna, in die illa tremenda: quando caeli movendi sunt et terra: dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.


A. introitus
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis. Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion, et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem: exaudi orationem meam, ad te omnis caro veniet. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.
B. kyrie
Kyrie, eleison                        Christe eleison                Kyrie eleison   
Kyrie, eleison                        Christe eleison                Kyrie eleison
Kyrie, eleison                        Christe eleison                Kyrie eleison
C. orchestral postlude

Part 3 – DIES IRAE

A. Dies irae, dies illa solvet saeclum in favilla: teste David cum Sibylla.
Quantus tremor est futurus, quando Judex est venturus, cuncta stricte discussurus!
Tuba mirum spargens sonum per sepulcra regionum, coget omnes ante thronum.
Mors stupebit et natura, cum resurget creatura, judicanti responsura.
Liber scriptus proferetur, in quo totum continetur, unde mundus judicetur.
Judex ergo cum sedebit, quidquid latet, apparebit: nil inultum remanebit.
Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus, cum vix justus sit securus?
Rex tremendae majestatis,

B. qui salvandos salvas gratis, salva me, fons pietatis.
Recordare, Jesu pie. quod sum causa tuae viae: ne me perdas illa die.
Quarens me, sedisti lassus: redemisti Crucem passus: tantus labor non sit cassus.
Juste judex ultionis, donum fac remissionis, ante diem rationis.

C. Ingemisco, tamquam reus: culpa rubet vultus meus: supplicanti parce, Deus.
Qui Mariam absolvisti, et latronem exaudisti, mihi quoque spem dedisti.
Preces meae non sunt dignae: sed tu bonus fac benigne, ne perenni cremer igne.
Inter oves locum praesta, et ab haedis me sequestra, statuens in parte dextra.

D. Confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis: voca me cum benedictis.
Oro supplex et acclinis, cor contritum quasi cinis: gere curam mei finis.
Lacrimosa dies illa, qua resurget ex favilla, judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus: Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem

E. the church-goers say farewell to the leper


A. the leper lies down in the grave (words according to St. Augustine)
Memorare novissima tua et in aeternum non peccabis. Facile contemnit omnia, qui se semper cogitat esse moriturum.
B. the priest throws some sand on the leper’s feet
Sis mortuus mundo, vivens iterum Deo!
C. words according to Isaias 54:3
Languores nostros ipse tulit, et dolores nostros ipse portavit et reputavimus eum quasi leprosum, percussum a Deo et humiliatum.
D. the leper is seated again in the carrying-chair
Sis mortuus mundo, vivens iterum Deo!
E. the procession starts walking to the leperhouse
F.  procession to the leper’s house
Si in infirmitate corporali causa patientiae Christo assimilaveris, profecto sperare potes quod spiritu cum Deo laetaberis: hoc tibi concedat Altissimus in libro vitae adscribens te.
G. the procession stops for a moment: the priest addresses the leper
Sis mortuus mundo, vivens iterum Deo!
H. the procession arrives at the leperhouse
In libro vitae adscribens te cum fidelibus.
I.  standing at the entrance of the leperhouse the leper is addressed by the priest for the last
Je te défens que jamais tu n’entre en eglise ou moustier, en foire, en moulin, en marchier, ne en compagnie de gens.
Je te défens que tu ne touche à chose que tu marchandes ou achètes, jusq’à tant qu’elle soit tienne.
Je te défens que tu ne habites à autre femmes que la tienne.
Je te défens que se tu vas par les chemins, et tu encontre aucune personne, qui parle à toy et qui te reisonne, qui tu te mette au dessoubs du vent, avant que tu respondes.
Je te défens le boire et le mangier avec compaignie sinon avec mesaux.
Je te défens que tu ne touches à enfans, ne leur donne aucune chose.
Je te défens que tu ne voises point hors de ta maison sans ton habit de ladre, afin qu’on te connoisse et que tu ne voises point deschaux.
Je te défens que jamais te ne lave tes mains ne autre choses d’entour toy en rivage, ne en fontaine, ne que ta ne boives, et se tu veilz de l’eaue por boire, puisse en ton baril et ton escuelle.
Je te défens que tu n’entre point en taverne, se tu veulz du vin, soit que tu l’achattes, ou que on te le donne, faise le entonner ton baril.
Je te défens que tu ne voises point par estroite ruelle, afin que se tu encontres aucune personne, qu’il ne puisse pis valoir de toy.

I forbid you ever to enter a church or monastery, to show up at a fair, in a mill, at a market, or to mingle with people.
I forbid you to touch something before selling or buying it.
I forbid you to live together with another woman than your own.
I forbid you to talk to someone with the wind coming from behind.
I forbid you to drink and eat together with others except lepers.
I forbid you to touch children or to give them something.
I forbid you to leave your house without the leper’s cloth and you may not wear shoes, so that you may be recognised.
I forbid you to wash your hands or something else in a brook or fountain or to drink from it. If you need water use your own mugs.
I forbid you to enter pubs. If you want wine, whether given or bought, have it  poured  into your own mug.
I forbid you to walk in narrow alleys to avoid that people who come from the opposite side do not come too close to you.
J.  the carrying-chair is set fire to
K. the leper enters the leperhouse