Linktree: Afghanistan: Requiem for a Gen | Linktree

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra | Bramwell Tovey, conductor
Text by Suzanne M. Steele | Music by Jeffrey Ryan

In 2009, as Canada’s first War Poet, Suzanne Steele joined the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry during the war in Afghanistan. She met people who did not come home alive, and others who did, but broken. She met their mourning, powerless families. Her writings and experiences provide the foundation for this hour-long oratorio with music by Canadian composer Jeffrey Ryan.

Scored for four soloists, adult and children’s choruses, and orchestra, Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation opens in the calm space of Canada’s North with a prayer lifted up to the starry winter solstice sky. It quickly comes back to earth, and to Afghanistan, with the fractured memories of a soldier suffering from PTSD, living in the present but tortured by the past, the sound of helicopters ringing in his ears. As the work unfolds, a soldier writes home during a cold Afghan night, the voices of parents and children echoing in his mind. In the Day of Wrath, apprehension turns to catastrophe first in slow motion, speeding up to real time as a soldier, critically injured by an Improvised Explosive Device, is airlifted to emergency care. A lover mourns. A soldier is killed two days before the tour of duty ends. A body returns home. Two soldiers tell their story of a lamb. Children play, voices of light evoking a flock of birds flying freely overhead. A medic is overwhelmed by mounting casualties. A soldier seeks to be made whole. Finally, the choir looks to an unknown future as the soloists remember past sacrifices, all coming together in a closing appeal for rest and peace.

Almost every generation has its war that it carries as a scar forever. Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation marks one particular war for one particular generation, but its message is universal and timeless.

Programme note by Jeffrey Ryan


  1. Requiem Aeternam  10:09
  2. Kyrie  7:18
  3. Dies Irae  5:35
  4. Offertorium  7:47
  5. Sanctus  6:11
  6. Agnus Dei  4:50
  7. Lux Aeterna  3:03
  8. Libera Me  7:37
  9. In Paradisum  7:58

Total time: 60:28