Some melodies and/or words have the ability to weave themselves into the very fabric of our lives. They become a conduit to our past, invoking memories and emotions long tucked away in the recesses of our minds. For me, one such is Schubert’s “Litany for the Feast of All Souls and particularly the song line “All souls rest in peace!” as it carries me back to my childhood when my mother and I, as the calendar turned to November 2, would make our way to the local florist where we would buy big pots of Chrysanthemums. Their autumn colors in perfect match to our moods, these flowers were intended for the graves of our departed family members, all resting in close proximity within the same cemetery behind the church in the village my mother was born. A beautiful gesture of respect and love for those who were no longer with us.

All Souls Rest in Peace

All Souls Day is a day of prayer and remembrance for the souls of those who have departed from this world, in Mexico known as “Day of the Dead” or “Día de los Muertos”. It is a day of prayer and remembrance for the faithful departed, which is observed by Roman Catholics and other Christian denominations annually on 2 November. It is a day when they reflect on the lives that once graced our own, a day to offer our prayers and thoughts for the departed. On this day, “Litany for the Feast of All Souls” takes on a profound significance. The words were penned by Georg Jacobi, and the music was composed by Franz Schubert in his “Litany for the Feast of All Souls.”

“Litany for the Feast of All Souls” previously featured on my album, Musica Sacra, in a version for voice and piano. A song close to my heart, I perceive it is a musical invocation, a prayer in the form of music that offers solace for those who have embarked on their journey beyond this world. It serves as a reminder that even as we face the trials and tribulations of our times, the power of remembrance and the beauty of music can provide us with a sense of peace and unity. For in the end, all souls rest in peace, and music is the bridge that connects us across the boundaries of life and death.

“All souls”, whether known to us or not, “rest in peace!” The resonance of these words take on a deeper meaning when I reflect on the circumstances surrounding my rendition of “Litany for the Feast of All Souls.” My arrangement was born in the wake of the untimely passing of the German filmmaker, Sebastian Jobst, with whom I had just completed Dreaming of Whales. I vividly recall that it was in those days when the recurring and concluding poetic line from Schubert’s renowned composition,  Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden! (all souls rest in peace) resonated deeply in my ears.

My intention in crafting and sharing this rendition is meant as a tribute to encompass all those who grapple with the pain of loss during challenging times in the hope to offer an image of serenity, one that can help us cherish the memory of our departed loved ones. In this mental image, I imagine magnificent cetaceans gently carrying our dear departed souls out to the vast expanse of the sea, a symbol of peace and eternal rest.

Litanei auf des Fest Allerseelen
 (Johann Georg Jacobi)

Ruhn in Frieden alle Seelen,
Die vollbracht ein banges Quälen,
Die vollendet süssen Traum,
Lebenssatt, geboren kaum,
Aus der Welt hinüber schieden:
Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

Liebevoller Mädchen Seelen,
Deren Tränen nicht zu zählen,
Die ein falscher Freund verliess,
Und die blinde Welt verstiess:
Alle, die von hinnen schieden,
Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

Und die nie der Sonne lachten,
Unterm Mond auf Dornen wachten,
Gott, im reinen Himmelslicht,
Einst zu sehn von Angesicht:
Alle, die von hinnen schieden,
Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

Litany for the Feast of All Souls
 (English translation by Richard Wigmore)

May all souls rest in peace;
those whose fearful torment is past;
those whose sweet dreams are over;
those sated with life, those barely born,
who have left this world:
may all souls rest in peace!

The souls of girls in love,
whose tears are without number,
who, abandoned by a faithless lover,
rejected the blind world.
May all who have departed hence,
may all souls rest in peace!

And those who never smiled at the sun,
who lay awake beneath the moon on beds of thorns,
so that they might one day see God face to face
in the pure light of heaven:
may all who have departed hence,
may all souls rest in peace!