Requiem for the Victims of AIDS

Music and Texts of  GARY BACHLUND

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Requiem for the Victims of AIDS - (1991)    
for soli, SATB divisi and chamber orchestra 
(harp, piano, percussion & strings)

texts from the the Book of Job, the Latin Mass for the Dead, and original poems and texts by the composer


Click here for the Readings for the Requiem for the Victims of AIDS


i.  Lesson - "Remember me"


Tenor solo
I am sickened of life;
I will give free rein to my grief,
and the bitterness of my soul.
I will ask of God, do not condemn me
but show me cause for my oppression.
Have you eyes like me?
Can you see me as I do?
Life... Must it vanish soon?
Once again let me taste of the happiness
of my life before life's end
and the gathering shadows
of the unknown.
And who shall remember me?
Who shall remember me?
I am sickened of life.
Remember me.

ii.  Introit - "Requiem aeternam"


Tutti Chorus
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Tutti Women
Exaudi orationem meam.
Ad te omnis caro veniet.
Tutti Chorus
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine:

Soprano solo
Question "Requiem."
Question "aeternam."
Question even "Domine."
With my "Kyrie eleison," I ask "Why?"
"Why, God?" I say.
"Why, God?" I cry with wonder, a song on my
lips and dying in my eyes.

Tutti Chorus
Requiem aeternam....

iii. Sequence - "Of events"


Tutti Chorus
Dies irae, dies illa!
AIDS parades the city;
Don't think it's where you're not!
AIDS invades the household
To raid the newborn's cot.
Dies irae, dies illa! Rage! Anger!
AIDS charades, disguises
And jades the lovers' knot.
AIDS evades detection
While Johnny on the spot!
Dies irae, dies illa! Day of anger, day of rage!
AIDS persuades its victims
On towards the graveyard plot.
AIDS may come one day to me.
I pray, forget me not.
Mors tremendae majestatis.
Day of anger, day of rage!

Baritone solo
Clever Death's enormous voice
Reads the lists and takes his choice.
Lover Death, he makes his date,
Coming quickly; don't be late!
Lady Death? She's quite desirous;
Johns rent love and but the virus.
Doctor Death is not so spry,
Sprinkling deadly blood awry.
Needle Death just shares his track,
Going one way, never back.

Baby Death with baby cries
Comes too soon to say goodbyes.
Question Death? Whens, whys and hows?
Questions such as Death allows.
Farmer Death's own harvest home
Fills the reaper's catacomb.
Stupid Death goes blindly one!
Stupid Death goes blindly one!

Tutti Chorus (a cappella)
...donum fac remissionis ante diem rationis.
Ingemisco tanquam reus....

Small Group ("brassy")
Mister and Missus Afraid,
Afraid of the world coming,
Coming with inadequate reason,
Reason their fear to hate,
Hate the virus victim,
Victim twice of the virus,
The virus and Mister and Missus Afraid,
Afraid of the world coming...
Come, pray for them too.

Tutti Chorus
Timor mortis morte pejor.

Tenor solo
If I speak out, the fear remains, and...
If I am silent, it rages within me.
We are short lived.
We are disquieted.
We blossom only to wither.
Like the shadows, we slip away.
And where are we?
Where are we?

Tutti chorus
Oro supplex et acclinis,
Cor contritum quasi cinis,
Gere curam mei finis...

Tutti women
Lacrymosa dies illa.
Day of sorrow. Day of pity.

Soprano solo
Now I lay me down to sleep.
Pray the Lord my soul to keep.
While I dream, recall the joys of yesterday.
Every day, think on me and yesterday.
Now I lay me down to die,
With a gentle last goodbye.
Dream with me that once I lived in yesterday.
Every hour, every day, think on me and yesterday.

Huic ergo parce Deus, dona eis requiem.


iv.  Vigil - "Room A-460"   


Mezzo Soprano solo
Rest? How? Question "Requiem?"

Tutti Women
How many neighbors? How many friends?
How many children must come to their ends?

Mezzo Soprano solo

Inside that room, A-460,
Beyond pain and feeling he lies,
Tired, body and soul,
Sleeping in a deep, deep sleep.
Inside that room, Palm Sunday morning,
He yields to his infections and dies,
Tired bodies and souls
Weeping for his last deep sleep.

Tutti Women
How many neighbors? How many children?
How many friends?

v.  Offertory - "Litany of Finger Pointing"


Tutti Men
Who's responsible for the plague?
Who's responsible to act up? Act up!
Who's responsible is rather vague.
All that fear is backed up.
What about those shameless gays?
Folks condemn their blameless ways.
As for all those righteous straights,
AIDS infects their one-night dates.
Who's responsible? Who's to blame?
How about those illegal Latins?
Even babies swathed in satins?
How about those late-night cruisers?
How about those damned drug abusers?
Who's responsible? Who's to blame?
How about the government?
The medical establishment?

Mezzo Soprano solo
It was a cross,
A red, red double cross
That spread the virus brigades.
It was the price,
Too great a sacrifice
To test the blood with AIDS.
Prevention versus cost?
Patiently, cost won.
Death by memorandum,
Incredibly dumb.
The real cost?
A dark red holocaust
Transfused in bloody trades,
Because a cross
Became a double cross,
And used the blood with AIDS.
Prevention versus cost?
Death by memorandum!

Tutti Men
Who's responsible? Who's to blame?
Where's the lamb who will serve as
Every sacred cow's a lifeboat!
AIDS takes all as equal fellows,
Whether blacks, browns, or whites
or yellows!
Who's responsible? Who's to blame?
What of promiscuity?
The sex-meets-death congruity?
Pass the guilt and shun the shame.
God forbid, we're all to blame?
Oh, is God responsible for the plague?
Is God responsible to act up? Act up!
Else who's responsible is rather vague.
Who's responsible?
You're responsible?
They're responsible?
We're responsible?
God's responsible?
Who's responsible?

vi.  Sanctus - "Holy are the Victims"


Tutti Women
Can we learn from the victims?
Victims are holy.
Can we learn from the victims
To love in the face of loss?
Can we learn? Will we learn?
Victims are holy.

Tutti Men
Sanctus, sanctus,
Sanctus Dominus Deus amor.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra et vita et mors.
Life and death fill the earth.
Sanctus, mysterium tuum.
Benedictus qui vivet in amorem Domine.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Holy are the victims.
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus.

vii.  Libera me - "Fear Not Death"


Tenor Solo
Slight fair Death! Nightmare Death!
Bold, brave Death! Cold grave Death!
Would that I had suffered then!
But I could not save them when
Their lives had ebbed so slow.
Pale Death at the door!
Frail Death wanting more!
Would that I had died instead?
But I could not help the dead
And had to let them go!
Libera eas Domine!
Libera me!
Libera nos!

Soprano solo
Weeping is a comfort,
For Love says, "Fear not Death!"
For Love begets Love, born to glory.

Soprano/Tenor duet
Love must be our comfort,
For Love says, "Fear not Death!"
And blessed are they who die
With love and faith and hope.

Tutti chorus
Love must be our comfort,
For Love says, "Fear not Death!"

Soprano solo
Weeping is a comfort of love.

Wash with tears the anger and the sorrow.
Think on yesterday and dream tomorrow.
Now I lay me down to die.
Love must speak my last goodbye.

Tenor solo
I am sickened of Death!


viii.  In paradisum - "The Quilt"


Baritone solo
Jim, Nicole, Kate, Howard, Jacques.
Tanya, Morty, Eugene and Beatrice.
Kimberly, Nils and Freddie. Joe.

Name your names.
Remember them and pray.
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine.


NOTE  Within the rhythmic constraints of the melody line, names may be substituted throughout the last repeat, so as to personalize the performance.


Copyright © 1991 Gary Bachlund     All international rights reserved.

A close-up of the HIV virus


The score for the Requiem for the Victims of AIDS is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.

Requiem for the Victims of AIDS

piano-vocal edition - 8 ½ x 11



Readings for the Requiem for the Victims of AIDS
Gary Bachlund

A first performance given 6 June 1992 at All Saints Church, Pasadena, California, on behalf of Common Ground and the All Saints Church AIDS Service Center, with Kari Windingstad, Deborah Shulman, Jonathan Mack, David Ault, Theodore Crain, piano, Paul Baker, harp, James Walker, organ, and Timothy Howard conducting members from the several choirs of All Saints Church and guests.

The entire work is here, , with readings and music [ circa 50' ]  This live recording sent to me by Thomas Swan, organist and choirmaster of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, New York, made on 5 June 1995. Soli were Cheryl Hudson, Maryalice Devine, Bruce Bell and Clay Hulsey, in an arrangement for organ and instrumentalists. The readings were performed by clergy of the congregation.


1   In the beginning, God created both the heavens and the earth.  

2   And God let there be light, with dawning day and dying night.  

3  And he bade the earth bring forth, and the earth brought forth multitudes of life, with creatures weak and strong,  those to consume and those to be consumed.

4  And God saw all that he had made, and declared it good.  

5  And unto man He gave the joys of life to taste. And the Lord God said: 'It is not good that man should be alone.'  

6  And he made man to share the earth, and declared that this was good. 

7  Now, the virus was more subtle than any serpent which the Lord had made; and it said unto man: 'God has made the joys of life for you to taste; O taste and see how bitter that joy is.' And it put forth its seed without the knowledge of good and evil.

8   And the eyes of man were opened wide, and man trembled naked and afraid in its presence.  

9   And the virus, which was made by God, called unto man, saying: 'Where are those who fear me?' And man grieved at the sound of its voice.

10 And, unto man, the virus said: 'I shall greatly increase your pain, and your joys shall be accurséd, and you shall return before your time unto the ground, for dust thou art.'  

11 And the virus was placed at the center of life, as a flaming sword, which turns each way, to destroy by the blood of its hands. 

12 And man saw what God had made, and grew perplexed, and could not declare that it was good.  

13 But, behold, it repented the Lord that He had fashioned the virus in His power, and it grieved Him at His heart.

14 This is the book of the generations of man. In the day that God had created the virus in man, one lived forty-seven years in quiet and hidden joy; and he died.

15 And one lived thirty-eight years, and begot daughters and sons; and she died too soon. One lived to celebrate life in music and dance; and he died.

16 And one lived twenty-three years, a virgin saint; and she died. One lived but eighteen years; and, like the candle in the wind, he died. One lived seven short years with no stain of shame or sin; and he died. 

17 One lived days less than a year; and she died.

18 But, it shall come to pass, that God will move the hearts of man towards the wisdom of love and the compassion for pain, that, by this, would man find grace in the sight of God, and God, grace in the sight of man.

19 Therefore are we commanded by the grace of compassion to help and heal each victim, to better see the face of God, and renew the heavens and the earth, our beginning and our end.

"H. I. V." 


H. I. V.
Pronounce these letter slowly
To savor their import.
H. I. V.

The "H" is for the "human,"
The "I" for "immunodeficiency,"
The "V" - that vicious "V" stands for the virus
Which comes for you and me.

For, given its own time and circumstance,
The single prick, the impetuous penetration,
The transfusion's sweetly gentle kiss,
This comes then this - the virus.

Poor, sad HIV has no life to call its own.
It takes no food and makes no waste;
It has no sex, for it is chaste.

Small, angry HIV is but a protein capsule
Of incomplete genetic strands
And enzymes for its sense and hands.

In its meek and mean simplicity,
It is simply unforgiving
And, without pity, walks and stalks the living.
And it waits.

It waits for us to fall,
To blunder blindly
Into unforeseen time and circumstance
When we are
hungry for lust,
thirsting for love,
fleeing from the pain,
and hiding from the hurt,
groping for relief
from hidden torments,
running away
or running to.

And there it waits,
Lying in our bed,
Working on our street,
Lurking in our embrace,
Burning in our vein,
Coming and coming,
Pouring over on into us.
It has come before.

The "H" is for each "human,"
The "I" for "immunodeficiency,"
The "V" - the "V" abbreviates its "victim,"
someone else,
or you or me.




He said, "All I can feel is the rage, and think of the waste of it all."
And she said, "I was married. I never thought AIDS would affect me in a million years. I never knew."

He said, "Almost everyone I've my since the epidemic began is dead."
And she said, "It was the street, with all those needles being passed around."

He said, "It was a living hell."
And she said, "My father couldn't look at me without crying."

He said, "Oh sweetie, will you forgive me this."
And she said, "My family won't have anything to do with me. I rely on God."

That is what he said.
That is what she said.

He said, "I helped him the best I could just by being there."
And she said, "I was his lifeline, and that lifeline was tied around my neck, tugging and tugging and tugging."

He said, "They've given me more than I could ever return. Such strength, such dignity and such decency."
And she said, "Who do I blame? Myself? I sure don't."

He said, "Unlike the others with AIDS who are shunned, there was a network of people who were there."
And she said, "I picked him up and wrapped him in his blanket, and kissed him goodbye."

That is what he said.
That is what she said.
Some have died. Some live on.


The Lord gives and the Lord takes away;
Blessed be the name of confusion -
The giving and the taking away.

Forgiving unforgiving God -
Were we in anger able
To call You down and to entreat
To answer here and now
Before our judgment seat.

Forgiving unforgiving God -
From virus-centered man
Accept an angry, sullen prayer,
Its roots in rage and fury,
Its blossoms of despair.

Forgiving unforgiving God -
We pray with the unanswered
Unanswerable question: Why?
Why must joy give way to sorrow?
Why must love be made to die?

Too soon.
Too soon.
Too soon.

If love is all that life can be,
If love is truly real,
Teach us the greater love to know,
To mourn, to act, to heal.

Forgiving unforgiving God -
We pray our meditations,
Our doubts, our grief, our debt;
We offer up the loves and lives
We cannot, will not forget.

O forgiving unforgiving God -
We demand to be more able
To deeper understand our lives,
And, better yet, to find
Some healing warmth of love survives
Of love, lost love,
And love to come.

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord's
Giving and taking away.

Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Gary Bachlund    All international rights reserved.