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story.lead_photo.caption Marc-André Bougie, conductor for the Texarkana Regional Chorale and a music professor at Texarkana College, used the quiet time he found in recent months to compose his own requiem. Photo by Submitted to the Texarkana Gazette / Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA — If you composed a requiem mass during your pandemic-inspired downtime, you are likely in a rare group, but Marc-André Bougie has done so.
Bougie, conductor for the Texarkana Regional Chorale and a music professor at Texarkana College, used the quiet time he found in recent months to compose his own requiem, joining an illustrious list of composers who've composed this type of work.
It premiered about a week ago in church as part of a traditional Latin requiem mass. It's written for solo soprano, solo baritone, flute, clarinet, French horn, trumpet, timpani and strings.
For the recent live rendition at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, he saw the 30-minute work performed with nine singers and 10 musicians, although it can be performed with a much larger group. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, they used masks and social distanced.
In background information Bougie prepared, he put it this way: "It can be performed on its own as a choral-orchestral masterwork, or within the context of a Mass with the addition of Gregorian chant (Gradual, Tract, Absolution, etc.) to complete the setting."
In an interview, Bougie talked about its importance to him, reflecting on how his composing process put silence to use. He intends to see the TRC perform the work next spring, which is when the Regional Chorale aims to return to live performances.
"It's what we call a choral-orchestra masterwork piece, which is a multi-movement piece in some traditional format, such as a mass, requiem, a te deum so it's one of the great liturgical formats of music history," Bougie said.
The genre dates to the Middle Ages with the Gregorian chants as the first settings. Composers ranging from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (with his unfinished work) to Michael Haydn (Franz Joseph Haydn's brother) have composed requiems.
"The list goes on. Dozens of composers have been inspired by these ancient prayers," Bougie said.
"During this whole pandemic situation, things slow down for everybody, including myself," the TRC veteran said. He's been a performing musician for many years, but that stopped with the coronavirus.
"I spent a lot of time this last spring, reading, meditating, praying, trying to make sense of this situation. The urge to compose came to me," Bougie said. "Something that people might not know about me is that I was trained as a composer."
He's worked as a pianist, but most of his college learning involved composing. Life, as it turned out, took him on the career path to be a performer. "But I kept on composing, sketching. It never really left me." When he left his post as Texarkana Symphony Orchestra conductor, he had an eye to do more composing.
"That reflection had begun a few years ago, it's just that the conditions, circumstances came together so that it became clear this was the new path for me," Bougie said, noting it's time for the second half of his career.
His passion for composing returned in these last few months, and so he started working diligently with daily, methodical structure on a requiem mass. Most of this work was done within two months.
"I've always wanted to leave behind music, you know, a corpus of pieces," Bougie said. He can see this as a leading influence on his professional work for the next few decades.
His requiem piece was exciting to perform. "Within the context for which a requiem would have been heard a thousand years ago," Bougie said. And the liturgical function of this work is important to him.
"You look back at your life and you wonder how you got somewhere. My interest in vocal music, that's never gone away I've always been in love with opera, working with soloists, working with choirs. I married a soprano." he said.
His professional career began in church, too, and he comes back to it again and again. "Finding, for me, finding timeless inspiration in those ancient rituals," Bougie said, noting it's a mystery as to how it came to be that he composed it.
"But I did feel the sense that there's been a tremendous amount of loss in the world these last few months — loss of lives, obviously, but loss of many other things: of jobs, of relationships, of wealth it fills me with great sadness to think about everything that's disappeared basically," Bougie said. He wanted to engage with that and come out of the darkness.
"The requiem came to be," the composer said.
Family remains an essential aspect of Bougie's composing, starting with the singer who's also his partner in life.
"Working with my wife Candace in developing the solo soprano of the requiem has also been a driving force of my inspiration. As a composer, I write with specific performers in mind, and my wife is usually first in line on that front," said Bougie. "Our daughter Miriam, who is now 12 years old, has also been enthralled by the whole composition process, and she has penned three fantasias for organ and strings of her own since she's seen me at work."
He's also found that composing here in Texarkana connects him to composers of the past, who also found in this area a worthy setting to create music.
"Living and working in Texarkana, continuing the legacy of Scott Joplin and Conlon Nancarrow — our two Texarkana-born world-renowned composers — is also an extremely inspiring proposition," Bougie said. "Texarkana has been a fertile ground for composers for generations now, and I'm hoping to extend that legacy as best I can through my own composing, and my teaching of young student composers at Texarkana College."

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