Jeff Mitchell, Toronto Concert Reviews. (T)he Toronto premiere of an hour-long work entitled Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation, by Vancouver-based composer Jeffrey Ryan, with text by Canadian poet Suzanne Steele, who spent time with the Canadian Light Infantry in Afghanistan between 2008 and 2010. Her “observations of a Canadian battle group’s road to war and that of their loved ones, before, during and after war”, as expressed through her vivid and graphic poetry, set the stage for the dramatic and visceral music composed by Ryan. The work is written for orchestra, vocal soloists, as well as adult and children’s choruses. Each of the soloists were exceptional, singing music that was not as lyrical or melodic as one often hears in a requiem but that was, at turns, percussive, violent, plaintive and emotionally raw, even at its quietest moments.
John Terauds, Toronto Star. Art loves conflict and resolution, while the real world muddles along in the sludgy mass between the two. But art, carefully applied and administered as it was by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on Thursday night, can lift that sludgy mass up and turn it into something almost as beautiful as neat resolution.
John Terauds, ludwig van Toronto. The second half of the program belonged to Ryan and Steele’s 60-minute Requiem, with full orchestra and four vocal soloists augmented by the always-excellent Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Toronto Children’s Chorus. Soprano Measha Brueggergosman, mezzo Allyson McHardy, tenor Colin Ainsworth and baritone Brett Poegato did excellent work with what was often difficult singing, bringing genuine emotion to the text.
John Gilks, operaramblings. It’s a new piece by Jeffrey Ryan that sets lines from the Latin Requiem Mass combined with words by poet Suzanne Steele who joined up with the PPCLI on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. So there are structural resemblances to the Britten work but whereas in the War Requiem we have a clear delineation between sections of the mass (for soprano and chorus) and Owen’s poetry (for the baritone and tenor), in Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation the two parts are blended and there’s an underlying narrative. Generally, the Latin is given to the adult and children’s choruses and set quite lyrically while Steele’s words are given to the four soloists with generally more abrasive, sometimes atonal music and sometimes even, spoken. Steele’s texts are redolent of the discomfort and danger and, sometimes, the essential pointlessness of the Afghanistan campaign. There’s a longing for home and a sense of wonderment at Nature but never, thankfully, bogus nationalism or sentimentality.