“I break every rule,” Doug Weatherhead said as he described the requiem he finished back in 2008 for Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Kingfield.

Traditionally, a requiem is a piece of music played at funerals, with its roots in Catholicism. Classic requiems written many centuries ago by composers like Antonín Dvořák and Gabriel Fauré transition between movements or sections and utilize specific Latin text in their choral sections.

The requiem that Weatherhead wrote includes those elements, but he isn’t a composer. He is a rock ‘n’ roll artist. He played saxophone in high school concert bands. And he sings in the church’s choir.

Judson Memorial Baptist Church advertises the requiem outside its church at the corner of Harriet Avenue and 41st Street. Photo by Melody Hoffmann

So where did he get the idea to write a requiem himself?

In the mid-2000s, after the Judson Church choir sang Fauré’s requiem, Weatherhead sat at the church’s piano.

“I would come at night when no one was here,” Weatherhead said at Judson Church earlier this week. “I turned the light on over the piano.”

One of those nights, a copy of Fauré’s requiem was on the piano. He wrote down the Latin text, which is a repetitive part of requiems, threw it on the floor, and started playing the piano.

“[Requiems] are just playing around with melodies and harmonies. That's what I do as a songwriter,” Weatherhead said.

Twenty minutes later, he had the chord structure and the melody for the beginning of his requiem. Over the next two years, he had a few movements of a requiem written.

“I brought it to our new choral director, John De Haan. I said, ‘John, I'm writing a requiem.’ And he looked up at me, like, ‘why?’” Weatherhead recounted. “Because who writes requiems? Nobody.”

The choir performed a version of it for a Good Friday service and then Pastor Diane Hooge asked Weatherhead if the requiem could be performed for the church's 100th anniversary.

With the help of composition software Sibelius, Weatherhead wrote a string arrangement and scrambled to finish the requiem. He successfully finished it in time for the November 2009 celebration. The requiem was performed again in November 2016.

The audience applauds at the end of the 2016 Weatherhead Requiem performance. Doug Weatherhead stands in the choir in the top row, third person in from the right. Photo courtesy of Judson Memorial Baptist Church

“I’ve always been amazed at how the church has supported me through the whole thing,” Weatherhead said.

“It's this wall of beautiful sound coming at you,” Pastor G. Travis Norvell said about the Weatherhead Requiem. The performance will be the church’s first big music piece performed since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The church’s choral director, De Haan, will conduct the Weatherhead Requiem for the third time, with a full choir and orchestra on March 17. The performance is open to the public. The requiem will be dedicated to Jackie Thureson, the lead alto in the Judson Memorial Baptist Church choir, who passed away last week. The performance starts at 3 p.m. and the suggested donation is $20 with cash, check, and credit cards accepted. Judson Memorial Baptist Church is located at 4101 Harriet Ave.