Ross Township resident composing requiem Mass
By Dona S. Dreeland
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:01 p.m.
The requiem Mass that Doug Starr, adjunct instructor in music at the Penn State New Kensington campus, will compose will be a work of the soul as he honors his deceased parents.
His father died 20 years ago; his mother, almost 10 years ago.
The Rev. Halton D. and Mardella Morehouse Starr are the inspirations for this composition. Starr, 60, and a Ross Township resident, began this musical reflection — now half completed — in the summer of 2011.
He acknowledged that the idea to remember his father and mother in this way is uncommon. As organist and choirmaster at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, he hopes to debut the composition at his church in about two years with his church choir and that of Washington & Jefferson College. While he performs, Susan Medley of McCandless, his friend and director of choral activities at the Washington, Pa., college, will conduct the piece.
“I feel that I am now at a level of musical understanding where I can write a requiem setting and not embarrass myself,” he said.
A performance of Mozart's “Requiem” was his impetus to begin thinking of this memorial work, but it took the words of a daily devotional to move him on his way.
“It said, ‘Don't wait for inspiration; get going,'” he remembered.
And so he began.
“I sit at the piano and write music on staff paper,” he explained.
“Then, I make another copy with edits and commit it to music-notation software. It's not a fast process.”
Even so, he has completed four movements of the requiem: the Introit, Recordare, Lacrimosa and Offertory. The remaining movements to be set are the Sanctus and Agnus Dei, standard movements in Mass settings. In addition, he likely will compose texts that conclude the piece, the Pie Jesu and In Paradisum.
What will set his requiem apart is that while each verse is sung in Latin, Starr will superimpose words of his mother's poetry or his father's ministerial writings over them.
He already has matched a verse from his mother's burial card to the music of the Pie Jesu.
The words are: “Remember, Merciful Jesus, that I am the cause of your sojourn.”
“Her poem was written from a child's perspective. The child had died and encountered Jesus, ” Starr explained
He needed only to blend the meaning of the poetry with that of the movement.
In most Masses, he said, the choir is in the foreground, with soloists taking that position only in some movements. His requiem will feature the soloists singing in English, while the choir honors the original verses in Latin in the background. The singers will alternate positions.
He plans to use a few of his father's quotes that were remembered by some of his seminary students. Starr's mother had compiled a memorial book after her husband's death. Starr has chosen one for the Agnus Dei.
“‘He drank my cup,'” his father had written in a lesson. “‘God is the host, and I am his guest.'”
Starr's requiem will be a stand-alone piece that might be performed at anyone's funeral. Yet, he anticipates Episcopalians might hear a movement or two during All Saints Day or Palm Sunday services.
This summer, he said, his work accelerated.
“It came. It flooded. I edited the Offertory in a lull.”
It was in this movement that he felt another spark of inspiration.
“In the midst, suddenly, there was a melodic idea,” he said.
“The idea came back and became a core part of the piece. It's the prettiest part, sweet sounding and expressive.”
Little accidents like these add to the creative process, he said.
Medley, also conductor of the Pittsburgh Concert Chorale, said she is eager to learn the work when it is completed.
“I am honored to conduct,” said Medley, having directed her chamber choir through Starr's arrangement of the song “The Water is Wide.”
“It was beautiful,” she said of the arrangement.
She said she is looking forward to playing through the requiem and working with the composer himself. Her choir will learn the piece following all of Starr's notations. Then, she'll call him in to listen.
“It's exciting to hear the work come to life for the first time,” Medley said.
“Writing a requiem is a huge undertaking. It's exciting to be involved with the first performance of a work.”
The talents of Annette Tierney, Starr's wife, in composition and performance also have contributed to the couple's music ministry in the church and at www.tierneystarrmusic.com.
“My wife listens in and says I need help,” Starr said.
But Tierney is available for constructive support whenever Starr might need it.
“The requiem Mass is all about love,” said Starr, continuing with something from his father's notes: “The wisdom of love is a balance. We are enabled to love because of his (God's) love.”
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Alvarez struggles as Pirates fall short against Brewers
- Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- Gorman: Can Mike Tyson save boxing?
- Dems in Pa. governor’s race vow to close loophole, say firms skirt corporate tax
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Latrobe woman texts searchers in Linn Run State Park to tell them she’s OK
- Rossi: Pens sticking to power-play plan
- City’s efforts bolstered to track illegal dumping
- Blue Jackets goalie Bobrovsky turns page, focuses on Game 2
- California University of Pennsylvania offers training for weather spotters