‘Requiem for the Innocents’ a conversation of mercy between a mother and her aborted child
Detroit — It was a familiar message, conveyed through a unique medium.
Opening the 2016-17 schedule of the Cathedral Cultural Series, the Archdiocesan Chorus of Detroit performed Requiem for the Innocents, a piece by E. Louis Canter, OEF, on Oct. 21 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The emotional piece, accompanied by piano, string and brass instruments, is a requiem for children lost in abortion, featuring a dialogue between a mother asking for forgiveness from her child who never had a chance to sing.
The requiem, first performed in 1996 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, is meant to be a reflection of God’s mercy, a calling out for forgiveness and the need for reconciliation, Canter said.
“It’s not about being pro-life, it’s awareness of God’s love, recompense and mercy,” Canter told The Michigan Catholic after the performance. “The work itself is not a statement, but it talks about the need for forgiveness, reconciliation.”
The piece begins with a story from the Book of Jeremiah, with Rachel crying out for her children. The text of the music evolves into poems written by women who have had abortions, eventually leading to a conversation between a mother and her unborn child.
“The quote from Jerimiah lets us know, Rachel is crying out for her children,” Canter said. “God, Who is speaking through the child, is speaking with the mother, who is looking for forgiveness for the finality of it all. She’s wondering what that child could be, so you hear the child say, ‘I love you, I forgive you.’”
Althea Anderson, who sang the requiem when it was first performed at the seminary in 1996, said Canter’s piece offers a unique take on the pro-life message.
“What makes this requiem different is it’s talking about singing for someone who never had an opportunity to sing,” Anderson said. “(When you’re singing this music) you think of your own children that have been born, mourning with the child that never had been born.”
The power in the selection comes from a conversation about a subject matter than can be hard to address in prose, but Anderson said that’s where music can step in.
“Music makes things more approachable,” Anderson said. “When you sing the blues, it’s hard to say the words, but you can sing them. Music does something no other form of spoken word can — the requiem does that. I think people were moved tonight.”
Besides addressing a subject that is difficult to discuss, music adds a sense of universality to the message, especially in Requiem for the Innocents, which featured English, Latin and Spanish verses.
“Music is universal; it can get the message across sooner than written words,” said Barb Tuohey. “It was nice to have the text in different languages; it’s representative of what the archdiocese is. I thought the music was lovely, reflective and spiritual. I support the series, and Louis, and his efforts are a demonstration of how you feel in contemplation about this topic.”
Canter said the point of the requiem is not to admonish mothers and fathers, but to address the need of forgiveness and mercy, which is necessary in order to bring about peace.
“The requiem is meant for people to imagine the kind of freedom and healing that can happen for the mother, the father,” Canter said. “I wanted to say through the peace, God is a God of mercy. If we say God is love, then God loves all. He definitely loves us. It’s a fact when a person comes to awareness that they’ve done something wrong, that brings about a healing, and that’s what the requiem does.”
Cathedral Cultural Series
To learn more about upcoming concerts and events, including the Cathedral Cultural Series, visit aod.org/musicevents.