Rachel Fuller’s latest classical work is for the birds — and for the dogs, cats and other creatures we keep as pets.
Fuller, an avowed dog lover and supporter of the non-profit animal rescue shelter PAAWS in Antigua, composed Animal Requiem last year and premiered it Jan. 31 at St. James Church in London. She released a recording of the work with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chamber Choir of London and Alfie Boe on Oct. 4; Now it will have its U.S. concert premiere on April 26 at Royce Hall in Los Angeles, with guest performers including Fuller’s husband Pete Townshend of The Who, Jane Lynch and others.
Fuller — who hosted the ’00s webcast In the Attic and scored Classic Quadrophenia in 2015 — began working on Animal Requiem after finishing work on her upcoming theater musical The Seeker. “I wanted to write something classical, and I’ve always wanted to write a requiem,” she tells Billboard. “Benjamin Britten had done a requiem for war. Another composer in the U.K. had done a requiem called Eternal Flight. I figured because I’m crazy about animals and Pete and I have had dogs for a really long time and we had lost a number of our dogs in a period of four or five years. It’s such a painful thing, and I thought it might be nice to have something that people could have and use to say goodbye to their beloved pets.”
Animal Requiem is not intended to be an entirely somber affair, however. “Most funerals are, by nature, incredibly sad, and it’s a place to grieve and say goodbye,” Fuller says. “So it’s more of a memorial, this requiem, for people to remember and celebrate the lives of all these animals who have passed.” Among the movements in Animal Requiem is her mother’s favorite hymn, “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace,” associated with Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.
Reaction to Animal Requiem has been “really positive, great, magical stuff” according to Fuller. For the U.K. concert in January she asked attendees to bring photos of their animals, which covered a wall during the performance. Especially since its release the piece has also brought a steady stream of emails and social media messages. “My hope is the piece takes you on a journey so you remember and celebrate and honor and leave feeling uplifted and comforted,” says Fuller, who’s allowing Animal Requiem to be performed by others as long as proceeds go to local animal organizations. “I want this to leave people feeling incredibly fulfilled and grateful to have had animal in their lives, even though it wasn’t a lifetime.”
While Animal Requiem goes on to its own life, Fuller is now prepping for the 2020 release of The Seeker, a musical adaptation of Hermann Hesse’s 1922 novel Siddhartha with full rights from his estate. Fuller is working again with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and a choir, with Christopher Plummer narrating, Townshend on Theremin, Elton John portraying Kamaswami and performances by British singer Emile Sande, South African vocalist Nakhane Lubabalo Mavuso, Indian actress Sunidhi Chauhan and “Kung Fu Fighting” producer Biddu Appaiah. Fuller also incorporated the Who’s “Bargain” and, of course, “The Seeker” into the musical, as well as “The Ferryman,” which Townshend wrote for a friend’s dramatic adaptation of Siddhartha.
Fuller is also in the midst of writing a ballet, inspired by Jonathan Livingston Seagull. “It’s about the journey of his childhood into adulthood,” says Fuller, who has yet to formally title the piece. “I’m just writing the music now, but it’s another great new adventure for me.”