When John Grant penned his piobaireachd “Lament for the Pipers Who Fell In the War” on 28 December 1918, he published it in his anthology to “The Pipes of War” he co-authored with Bruce Seaton. How honoured he would be to know that now this Lament is being heard by thousands. The tune was discovered by Australian composer Christopher Latham in his search for music for “The Diggers’ Requiem,” a work he was commissioned to create by the Australian War Memorial (AWM) and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA). “The Diggers’ Requiem”–a collaborative effort–was composed by Elena Kats-Chernin, Richard Mills, Migel Westlake, Graeme Koehne and Ross Edwards. It tells the story of eleven significant Western Front battles involving Australian military forces, one movement for each battle. The premiere performance was on 23 April 2018 in Amiens, France, using the combined forces of the Orchestre de Picardie and Germany’s Jena Philharmonic along with Australian soloists. The choice of Amiens for the premiere is significant. “Our central message is that because of the Allied counterattack to retake Villers-Bretonneux on Anzac Day eve in 1918, the German artillery was denied the high plateau from which it would have flattened the strategic railway yards at Amiens nearby. This act saved Amiens cathedral, France’s tallest and most precious Gothic masterwork, from almost certain destruction,” Latham relates. The Grant piobaireachd is utilized in the penultimate movement entitled “Lux Aeterna,” composed by Ross Edwards. A lone piper (Jordan Aiken) entones the Urlar of the Lament, and the orchestra, chorus and soloist enter with the “Lux Aeterna” text. As layer upon layer are added, 68,000 bells peal–one for each Australian soldier lost in the war. As the music dies away, a soprano soloist sings in French, English, and German, “We, the dead, speak to you, the living–make peace.” The remaining performance of “The Digger’s Requiem” is being staged 6 October 2018 at 7:30 p.m. local time in Llewellyn Hall in Canberra, Australia. It will be broadcast on ABC FM and a CD will be forthcoming. For more, see http://theflowersofwar.org/.
Hear “Lux Aeterna”