Review: Karl Jenkins Requiem


Karl Jenkins


Trinity Uniting Church


Karl Jenkins’ Requiem made Good Friday memorable at Trinity Uniting Church where Jangoo Chapkhana presided over his Lux et Veritas choir and the Camerata 1685 orchestra.

I cannot recall any other setting of the Requiem which incorporates Japanese haiku. Jenkins does this with such finesse taste that there’s a seamless fit. His Requiem is a model of adventurous creativity.

Presiding over events, Chapkhana did wonders in taking his forces through this fascinating music, focussing on fine detail without for a moment losing sight of the overall sweep of the work.

Instrumentalists were very much on their collective toes, not least the four percussionists who, in the setting of Dies Irae, maintained an implacably thudding, hackle-raising beat.

An exotic woodwind timbre was provided by Lachlan Skipworth’s skill on the Japanese end-blown shakuhachi flute in The Snow of Yesterday haiku. In Rex Tremendae, the percussionists were again in musically muscular form – and in conjunction with choral shouts, it came across vividly. This was a listening experience to cherish especially in moments informed by doom-laden percussive crashes. Here, sung text and unwavering rhythmic underpinning were electrifying.

A much-in-form Robert Gladstones did wonders on French horn, his precisely placed notes filling Trinity Church with golden tone, especially in Confutatis. Here, choristers were most effective as they were in Pie Jesu which came across in a gently lulling way.

I particularly liked the setting of Now as a Spirit haiku, with frankly delightful singing in ensemble with gentle, delicate pinging and tinkling from the percussion section.

It was only in In Paradisum that tiredness became apparent in the singing with some slipping of intonation. Up to that point, though, the 14-strong choir was a model of disciplined and meaningful artistry.

Throughout, the fine acoustics of the church added significantly to listening pleasure.

Jenkins, who started his music career as an oboist, is a man of many parts. He has also worked as a jazz-rock musician, playing baritone and soprano saxophone. The Peacemakers, a recent choral work, incorporates texts by Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Anne Franck and the Dalai Lama.