A “Civil Requiem” to accompany the deceased

In the delicately lit half-light, voices rise and words hatch: “Sweetest, dearest soul, no more…” (“the sweetest, dearest soul is no more”). Twenty singers from the Ensemble Aedes, under the direction of Mathieu Romano, interpret the first notes of the Civil Requiem composed by Lise Borel on poems by her mother, Cécile Borel.

About fifteen minutes later, silence reasserts itself, the last echoes of the fifth canto having died out under the vaults of the catacombs in Paris. It is this singular place, in the basement of the capital, that the Roc Eclerc foundation has chosen for the first hearing of the work commissioned from the young French composer who is particularly attached to the vocal art. “We opted for the word Requiem, explains Thierry Gisserot, director of the foundation, which refers explicitly to the homage addressed to the deceased, to Mozart, to a long tradition. But the adjective “civilian” responds to a contemporary need, to our secularized society. »

Destitute families

The group of undertakers and funeral planning is, in fact, increasingly solicited by bereaved families who want to honor their dead in a secular but ritualized way. “In addition to their sadness, they feel helpless, without recourse to the well-defined path offered by the religious liturgy. In France, the funeral operator has a public service mission and must support relatives in their procedures. Remember that the funeral must take place within six days of the death, which is very short for the families. »

Music, which laments, soothes and hopes, helps to say goodbye, to part. “Particularly the voice, intimate and shared”, confirms Mathieu Romano, familiar with the sacred and secular repertoire, from the Renaissance to the present day, including classical and romantic pages. It is therefore ” naturally “ that he associated himself with this Civil Requiemespecially since the writing of Lise Borel “offers a very fine palette of emotions, from murmurs to fullness of sound, intense but never demonstrative”.

The composer and her mother opted for lyrics in English, inspired by texts by Shakespeare and Keats. “Latin was too solemn and religious, French too close and frontalexplains the musician. The somewhat aquatic vagueness of English seemed to us at the right distance. We understand a few words, their caressing musicality acts like a balm. »

A “distended” relationship to death

Ensemble Aedes made a recording of the Civil Requiem which will be made available to all, free of charge, from November 1 on the foundation website. “In the form of a sound file to be broadcast during the ceremony or a score for those who would have the opportunity to interpret the work”, specifies Thierry Gisserot. If the Roc Eclerc foundation is at the initiative, all funeral companies (there are around 3,000 in France) will be able to benefit from these fifteen minutes of music “rooted in vocal tradition but destined for our 21st century”.

A century that has “distended” its relationship to death, notably by pushing it away from home. “Today, 80% of people die in a specialized structure, hospital or retirement homehe continues. Often, families no longer see the elders disappear. However, they are very attached to accompanying them with dignity and respect at the time of the funeral and the burial. » Or, very often now, cremation. The director of Roc Eclerc recalls, in fact, that, if in 1970 it was non-existent, today it concerns 40% of French people. “The study of pension contracts shows us that this figure will rise to 80% in a few years. »

Gathered by music

“Accompanying death but also celebrating life; be close but never intrusive; help to experience the pain of the present moment but also leave room for a timeless dimension… That’s all that I tried to translate in this piece”, says Lise Borel. The last movement takes up and mixes the themes of the first four to end with the word “Eternity”. “Music, for an eternity and for eternity, brings us together, us humans, whatever our origins, our convictions and our beliefs. »


Under the aegis of the Fondation de France

Created in 2019 by the funeral group of the same name, the Roc Eclerc Foundation supports projects in the areas of local and associative life, child protection and adolescence.

As part of its mission to preserve funerary heritage, it supported the restoration of Napoleon’s tomb at the Invalides, the Pharaoh Superstar exhibition at the Mucem in Marseille.

Composer of Civil Requiem, Lise Borel, born in 1993, wrote for the Maîtrises of Radio France (where she studied) and Notre-Dame de Paris. She has also written for artists such as Philippe Jaroussky and the Akilone Quartet.

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