Announcing the May 2019 World Premiere of VONNEGUT: REQIUEM

For Immediate Release
December 17, 2018

Contact: Susan Swaney

9 pieces for choir, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, percussion, violin, and double bass set to Kurt Vonnegut’s wryly humanist revision of the traditional requiem text by composers:

Lauren Bernofsky
Cary Boyce
Malcolm Dalglish
Don Freund
Stacy Garrop
Gabriel Lubell
Moira Smiley
Dale Trumbore

May 11 at 7pm and May 12 at 3pm

Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington
Bloomington, Indiana

Commissioned by Voces Novae

Kurt Vonnegut’s wry, humanist revision of the traditional requiem text, set to music by eight composers in short movements for choir and six instruments, will be premiered by Voces Novae at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, Indiana, on Saturday, May 11, 2019, at 7:00 pm and repeated on Sunday, May 12 at 3pm.

After attending the premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem in New York, Kurt Vonnegut stayed up all night revising the traditional requiem text into a more universal and humanist form. Voces Novae, a chamber choir in Bloomington, Indiana, has commissioned eight composers to create short (three-to-five minute) musical pieces from this text to be premiered May 11, 2019. The full work will be about 45 minutes in length, and the project is led by Voces Novae Artistic Director Susan Swaney.

The composers, four women and four men from across the United States, have approached the text with reverence and wit. In creating their individual settings, the composers had the option to use instrumentation derived from Igor Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale, a piece for which Vonnegut also created an alternate narration. Most of the movements of the new Requiem take advantage of the full orchestration, although two use only two instruments, and one is a capella.

The resulting pieces reflect the striking diversity of styles in 21st-century choral composition. Susan Swaney comments, “The composers have been wildly creative with the text. There are lush harmonies, nearly silent reverberations of a single word, flashes of jazz inflection, a sinister waltz, a cartoon march – all in a powerful call to slow down, turn off the light, and rest.”

The traditional requiem text, set to music so memorably by Mozart, Verdi, Faure, and others through the ages, is the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead. It begins and ends with a chant that translates as, “Rest eternal grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.” Vonnegut reinterprets this concept as “Let not eternal light shine upon them. Let them rest.” Perhaps it is an indictment of a 24-hour world lit by screens.

The premiere of Vonnegut: Requiem takes place during the Indiana University Granfalloon, an annual festival in Bloomington celebrating one of Indiana’s most famous authors. The commissioned work is supported by the Indiana University Arts & Humanities Council, Brabson Library and Education Foundation, Bloomington Arts Commission, and numerous individuals. Permission to use the text is granted by Kurt Vonnegut LLC.

Tickets ($25) will be available at in spring 2019.


Voces Novae (Latin for new voices) is a chamber choir based in Bloomington, Indiana, whose mission is to use music, and the arts generally, to explore ideas that enrich and inform our daily experience.

Now in its third decade, Voces Novae has consistently placed the arts into unexpected or stimulating contexts and places, creating a fresh look at old masterpieces and presenting new works in the service of broad and interesting ideas. Each concert is developed around a theme. Examples of concerts include walking tours of historic Rose Hill Cemetery and the B-Line Trail in Bloomington, and the architecture of Columbus, IN; an occasional series about interesting Hoosiers; Gender 101 (what are the differences between biological gender, gender identity, and attraction?), Team Spirit (who do we choose to stand with, and at what price?), Supporting Players (the many unsung shoulders upon which we stand), The Ignorance Map (how do you know what you don't know?), and The 7 Scientifically Proven Habits of Happiness.

Abby HenkelComment