After posting my “Trenched by sorrow” prose poem, I found myself recalling favorite musical requiems and laments. And minutes turned to hours as I compiled an expansive list of those available for online listening. (I found short excerpts from some of the longer classical requiems.) The list below is limited by my own subjectivity, of course; but it does include wide variety of musical genres.
What are yours? I encourage you to make your own list. Pull one or more up to guide your prayers when hope gets hard to come by.
Our capacity to grieve is directly related to our capacity for hope, much like the circumference of a tree’s canopy is proportionate to its root system. The work of lament contains in its very performance the generative power of assurance that siphons away the rule of fear. (For more on this see “The labor of lament“) —Ken Sehested
§ “Come Holy Spirit / And stay with me always / Within You I’ll remain / For in You I’m sustained.” —Isaac Cates and the Ordained gospel rendition of Mozart’s “Lacrimosa: Requiem D Minor“
§ “Pie Jesu” (“Merciful Jesus”) by Sarah Brightman, Paul Miles-Kingston. The music accompanies actual film footage from World War I’s “Battle of The Somme,” 1 July-18 November 1916, where more than one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in history.
§ “Waters of Babylon (where we sat down and wept).” —Sweet Honey in the Rock, lyrics drawn from Psalm 137
§ “Requiem,” Orthodox Christian Chant by the Choir of the Great Kiev Lavra
§ “Twilight and evening bell, / And after that the dark! / And may there be no sadness of farewell / When I embark; / For, though from out our bourne of time and place / The flood may bear me far, / I hope to see my Pilot face to face / When I have crossed the bar.” —“Crossing the Bar,” Alfred Tennyson, performed by Laudate Mennonite Ensemble
§ “David, the king, was grieved and moved, / He went to his chamber, his chamber, and wept; / And as he went he wept, and said, / “O my son! O my son! / Would to God I had died, / Would to God I had died, / For thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.” —“268 David’s Lamentation,” Second Ireland Sacred Harp Convention 2012
§ “Strong wind, strong wind / Many dead, tonight it could be you / And we are homeless, homeless / Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake.” —English translation, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, “Homeless”
§ “Requiem for 3 Cellos and Piano” by David Popper performed by “Three Sisters Trio”
§ “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” —“How long, Lord?” translated lyrics from “Eela Mata Ya Rabbou,” hymn adapted from Psalm 13 of lament over the Israeli massacres of Palestinian protestors in the Gaza Strip, performed by Fairouz
§ “When I am laid, am laid in earth, / May my wrongs create / No trouble, no trouble in thy breast. / Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate. / Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.” —Alison Moyet, Dido’s Lament from “Dido and Aeneas” by Henry Purcell
§ “Kaddish” from “Deux Melodies Hebraiques,” Maurice Ravel, featuring Olivia Da Costa
§ “Let me weep for my cruel fate / And sigh after freedom! / And let me sigh / Sigh after freedom! / May sorrow, out of pity, break the ropes of my sufferings, / of my sufferings, out of pity. / And let me sigh after freedom!” —English translation of lyrics to Handel’s “Lascia ch’io pianga” (“Let me weep”), performed by Aksel Rykkvin
§ “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” Odetta.
§ “Death hath deprived me of my dearest friend,” Thomas Weelkes, a eulogy on the death of Thomas Morley in 1602, performed by Vox Luminis
§ “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the / world, have mercy on us, who takes away the / sins of the world, grant us peace.” —translated lyrics to “Lament for the Valley,” one song in Karl Jenkins’ “For the Children” cantata, written to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Aberfan disaster in Wales, where a mountainside coal slurry damn broke sending the sludge down the mountain into Aberfan, crushing a school and nearby houses. One hundred sixteen children were killed, along with 26 adults.
§ “Holy Mother, where are you? / Tonight I feel broken in two. / I’ve seen the stars fall from the sky. / Holy mother, can’t keep from crying. / Oh I need your help this time, / Get me through this lonely night. / Tell me please which way to turn / To find myself again.” —“Holy Mother” by Eric Claption, Luciano Pavarotti, and the East London Gospel Choir
§ “Mournful that day. / When from the ashes shall rise / a guilty man to be judged. / Lord, have mercy on him. / Gentle Lord Jesus, / grant them eternal rest. / Amen.” —English translation of lyrics to “Lacrimosa,” part of the Dies Irae sequence in the Requiem mass, performed by Elżbieta Towarnicka
§ “Precious Lord,” Fannie Lou Hamer. This was the last hymn Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. requested—for that evening’s mass meeting in Memphis—shortly before he was assassinated.
§ “Eies irae” from Giuseppe Verdi’s “Requiem”
§ “Wayfaring Stranger,” Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra
§ “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place,” Brahms Requiem, Taylor Festival Choir
§ “Kyrie Eleison” (“Lord Have Mercy”), from Mozart’s Requiem Mass, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic
§ “Mother Mary, full of grace, awaken. / All our homes are gone, our loved ones taken. / Taken by the sea – / Mother Mary, calm our fears, have mercy. / Drowning in a sea of tears, have mercy. / Hear our mournful plea. / Our world has been shaken, / we wander our homelands, forsaken.” —Eliza Gilykson, “Requiem,” performed by Age to Age. The piece was written after the 26 December 2004 earthquake in the Indian ocean, creating a tsunami which struck Indonesia, killing over 260,000.
§ “May the angels lead you into paradise / May the martyrs receive you / In your coming / And may they guide you / Into the holy city, Jerusalem / May the chorus of angels receive you / And with Lazarus once poor / May you have eternal rest.” —Gabriel Fauré, “Requiem: In Paradisum”
§ “Largo in D Flat” (“Going Home”), Antonin Dvorak, New World Symphony
§ “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger: / nor chasten me in thy displeasure. / Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak: / O Lord, heal me, / for my bones are troubled. / My soul also is troubled: / but, Lord, how long?” —English translation of “Domine ne in furore tuo” (“O Lord, Rebuke Me Not”) by Claudio Monteverdi, performed by The Sixteen
§ “I raised my head and set myself / In the eye of the storm, in the belly of a whale / My spirit stood on solid ground / I’ll be at peace when they lay me down.” —Loretta Lynn & Willie Nelson, “Lay Me Down”
§ “Officium Defunctorum: Missa pro defunctis: I. Introitus,” Collegum Vocale Gent
§ “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,” Henryk Górecki (1st movement, second part).
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