“Requiem Mass: A Queer Divine Rite” will have its San Francisco premiere on Nov. 16 & 17 at Grace Cathedral. The piece is an evening-length choral work by singer-composer Holcombe Waller, created to honor those who have suffered persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender expression. “Requiem Mass” is presented by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in collaboration with Grace Cathedral’s Ghiberti Foundation.
“‘Requiem Mass: A Queer Divine Rite’ is a radical appropriation of a European, patriarchal tradition, the formal Latin Mass, which we reinterpret through the lens of the marginalized LGBTQ experience,” Holcombe Waller told the Bay Area Reporter. “In many ways, the result is like an alternate universe in which the millennia of queer leadership in communities of faith have been out all along, shining their example of loving equity across all people. This is what the piece seeks to dream into being.”
Waller said that it was the Mormon and Catholic Churches’ support for Proposition 8, the California ballot measure of a decade ago that sought to define marriage as between one man and one woman, that inspired him to create the work.
“At that time, I realized that the queer arts owed it to organized religion to intervene,” he said. “It’s so misguided to apply Christian tenants against equitable social justice. It’s sort of a no-brainer to offer some ceremonial counterpoint.”
Waller noted that he wasn’t terribly concerned with how Catholic Church leaders might feel about the Requiem Mass. He feels the Church has its hands full with its history of supporting and covering up sex crimes against children. “I can’t really imagine how they might feel about this work, but I can say that the Catholic Church should immediately and irrevocably end all discrimination against LGBTQ people,” he said. “End the bans of intimacy, end the judgment, end the discrimination. There is no theological basis for it, the quoted ‘clobber passages’ are never in the spirit of the original texts anyway. Everyone knows it.”
The choir, Waller pointed out, is the heart and soul of Requiem Mass. “They are the embodiment of loving, spirit-driven queer identity that the Requiem dreams into being. And they can be atheists, Christians, or any strand of religion,” he said. “I myself am not religious. The music brings the focus together.”
Full story at Bay Area Reporter.