On Saturday 27 August 2016 at 20:00 at the Linder Auditorium and 28 August 2016 at 15:00 at ZK Matthews Hall, Unisa. It is fitting that as women’s month draws to a close a female composer’s work is performed in her home country, especially after one of her former teachers advised her that “women can’t be composers and conductors”.
Dr Rexleigh Bunyard is a wife, mother, musician and a humanitarian. She has composed a “Requiem for the Living”, originally inspired by AIDS orphans, but expanded to include everyone who has experienced loss. Bunyard specially mentions the Truth and Reconciliation Commission here, as well as the praise singers at Mandela’s funeral when the whole country was mourning this national loss. The work is one of compassion for all living creatures, mindful always of the composer’s “extraordinary privilege”.
I have known Dr Bunyard from a distance for many years. I went to her home to interview her. I was struck by her hospitality and nurturing manner. It doesn’t surprise me to hear that while she loves composing and conducting, as well as playing, that it is teaching that thrills her most because she is able to touch young lives as she mentors her students in both music and life skills.
Technically a requiem is a Catholic mass said/sung for the souls of the dead. It brings a message of comfort to those who mourn. It is an act of remembrance, bringing comfort. Bunyard assures me that this music focuses on hope as well as comfort. It is also not a traditional requiem, although it is very musically accessible.
The work is as inclusive as any finite piece of work can be. It is multi-lingual celebrating the South African heritage from both Europe and Africa. It is also a multi-faith work. One can expect Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jewish references and performers of every hue and creed. Most of this is symbolic rather than exhaustive, so one doesn’t have to fear a marathon.
This work has been five years in the making. Bunyard speaks with great fondness about the influence of her parents on her values. She describes their core values as integrity and kindness. She also gives credit to her music teachers for their input into her musical career. She is also very proud of her son, Bernard Boekkooi, who is a bass baritone, and will be one of the praise singers (English) in this production. Thje other are Tirusha Govender (Hindi), Jacinta Demetrio (Portuguese), Layla Li (Cantonese and Mandarin), Dillon Davie (Hebrew), Mukgodi Sathekge (Venda), Julia Kinghorn (French), Victoria Roetger (German), Phenye Modiane (Sotho), Tylo Neethling (Afrikaans), Kamogelo Mothoagae (Setswana), Thabang Mhlonzi (Xhosa).
I am unable to be present for these performances of the Requiem for the Living and I am struck with sadness at how much I will be missing. I hope the work “gets legs” and is produced again in some place where I will be able to hear it.