In a society fiercely bent on interpreting yesterday’s actions by today’s definitions and filtering all information through feelings deemed sacrosanct, it’s become increasingly difficult explaining to the jaded, when confronted by events such as the coronavirus pandemic, that we need to learn from, not sneer at, the past and how such genuine traumas were handled. Solomon was correct when he wearily wrote there is nothing new under the sun; although industry and technology continue expanding, humanity itself stubbornly remains the same fallen, self-deluded mortal mass it has always been and will always be until Christ returns.
To some, the pandemic is an inconvenience, a perpetual nuisance of mask-wearing and inability to hit the town on Saturday night for partying with friends. To far too many, however, it has been and continues to be a wound of the worst kind, the burying of loved ones without the ability to so much as offer a proper funeral for fear of spreading or encountering the hideous disease from which so many have fallen. To those directly affected, vapid diversions offered by pop culture and endless debate over the self-important silly frivolity of self-definition are exposed for the chaff they have always been. There is a wound in their heart and mind defying healing; the anguish of those loved now forever gone from this world. They need something tangible, something real to get them through the days and endless empty nights. Thankfully, we now have Requiem by Rachel Wilhelm to help.
In Requiem, Wilhelm brings all her considerable skills and experience as a presently Tennessee-based Minister of Music and Worship Arts to bear in tackling a subject few Christian artists dare touch, that being something with which to address earthly mortality not solely in terms of eternal destiny and Christ’s triumph over the grave, but what those who remain now do when confronting the unyielding void left by a loved one’s passing.
Starting with the artistic side, she impeccably voices the album through traditional liturgical themes and flow, making what is often dismissed as staid and dated into a direct encounter with faith and life’s reality upon which tradition is built and sustained not because it’s old, but because it has been proved over time to work.
Wilhelm’s compositional and arrangement skills are second to none. She superbly blends threads of traditional church music, light classical, and the melodic side of ‘70s progressive rock as embodied by bands such as Camel and Renaissance into a seamless, breathtaking whole. There is depth to Wilhelm’s work, the kind where multiple listens bring new revelations each time.
Lyrically, Wilhelm, along with on some songs whole or collaborative input from Kate Bluett, hews to the theme of man’s mortality and utter reliance on Christ, following this with the simultaneous acknowledgement of grief and loss while celebrating the knowledge that a loved one is now forever in heaven with Jesus. There are no smarmy, syrupy shortcuts or touchy-feely platitudes. The words are real, even as the grief not abandoned by comfort is real.
Requiem is not background music for the bored seeking spiritual coddling. It is artistically superb and devastatingly genuine. For those who have unwillingly joined the unfortunate fellowship, Rachel Wilhelm has presented a beautiful, moving focal point of truth and realistic comfort.
The album is available on Bandcamp.