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Descamps, Pascal

Born in 1973, Pascal Descamps has always been immersed in music. Whether composing a mass, playing the piano, singing opera or pop music, his talents know no stylistic boundaries.

As a music student, Pascal gained numerous prizes including chamber music, singing, music history and encompassing many genres. As a pianist, he has won numerous awards, including the prestigious national Madeleine de Valmalète Competition. As a young adult, he enlisted in the French National Army as accompanist of the French Army Choir. On returning to civilian life, he taught music history at university. However, having decided not to pursue his career as a teacher, he turned to music-making, live performance and composition.

He sings regularly at the Saint-Etienne Opera House, he also coaches opera singers and is a highly respected accompanist and choirmaster. Currently, however, he is much more in demand as a composer.

Pascal's musical style is based upon three essential ingredients: the richness of his melodies, the refinement of the harmony, and - above all - , the emotional power of the ensemble, in which voices, whether soloists or part of the choral architecture, play a critical role.

Pascal Descamps is undoubtedly a composer of the 21st century. The variety of the musical references in his work contributes to the richness of his personal style and aesthetics. Furthermore, he is convinced that music should convey universal emotions and be constantly in touch with public audiences.

Both passionate and prolific, he initiated a cycle of sacred music in 2011, by creating and conducting a mass called Rivages, followed by settings of the texts of Pater Noster, Ave Maria and Ave Verum Corpus to much critical acclaim. Public performances of all these works were met with resounding success. His Requiem was composed during the summer 2013 and it premièred in Paris at the prestigious Invalides on 23rd October 2014. The spellbinding lyricism of this piece constitutes a real orchestral showcase, which serves brilliantly the expressiveness of the choir and soloists.

Pascal is thrilled that his music has been performed by exceptionally talented and dedicated friends. Their skill and understanding have ensured that the intentions of his compositions have been realised fully and to such acclaim. He has recently been commissioned to set music to three poems (Poèmes étoilés) to celebrate the inscription to the Unesco World Heritage of the Firminy Le Corbusier architectural complex in November 2016.

Always inspired by new challenges and having already composed approximately three-dozen songs, Pascal Descamps is currently working on various projects including Odissey, a large symphonic fresco for soloists, chorus and orchestra, and a musical to be performed in 2017. In addition to the above genres, he has also composed numerous tunes, melodies and themes, which would be entirely suitable for development into new artistic plans in the field of film music in collaboration with production studios and film directors.

Translation: Alain Koenig & Jeff Kelly

Requiem (2013)
for voice, orchestra and choir
Editions Durand - On hire

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Pascal Descamps talking about his Requiem

Sacred music, besides the spiritual questions it brings to the forefront, is a sensational exercise in style for a composer. The ability to use a relatively short form, an orchestra, a quartet of soloists and a choir presents them with an infinite palette of colours, giving free reign to the emotional imagination of their language.

After the 2011 premiere of a Mass ordinary entitled Rivages, which was immediately followed by other pieces (Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Ave Verum Corpus…), I didn’t think I would return to a piece of sacred music of this stature so quickly. At the beginning of summer in 2013, as I was working on a completely different project, I couldn’t get a particular theme out of my head when I thought about the first words “Requiem æternam…”. The other numbers followed quickly: within three weeks.

This text, transcending all beliefs, echoes the universal human questioning: that of death and of the existence of the hereafter… I chose to give it a resolutely optimistic musical vision: a passage taken by the soul from darkness to light; a path glazed with doubt and contrasting emotions.

The Introït expresses, through the rhythmic pulsing of a funeral march, a farewell to the body and the material world. Dies Irae, Tuba Mirum and Confutatis comprise a triptych in which fear still resonates, whether it be of abandonment or judgement. The Lacrimosa, once again punctuated by a faraway funeral march, assigns the animated theme to the solo tenor who propels it into the lullaby Pie Jesu. The tenderness of this bass/soprano duet, who are like gentle parents, is brought to a close by a grand, radiant tutti, as if the premise of peace is finally close. The doubt is still present, expressed through a Sanctus with poignant Gregorian overtones, followed by a Benedictus imbued with a nostalgic atmosphere – the final memories of a past life. Then the soprano, accompanied by the harp, bursts into the aerial melody of In Paradisum… Reunited with the other soloists, the doors to the hereafter finally open with Jerusalem, and the light settles with a final tutti on the theme of the Introït, finally peaceful.

If the soloist and orchestral writing is elemental for me in a game of dialogues, doubles, contrasts and colours, it’s the same for the choir. This tool is essential for the effects it offers to me in the management and scripting of musical emotion. I use a lot of facets in Requiem. Successively in unison, a carpet of sound, or in a grand lyrical choir, I harmonise each section in the most melodious lattice of voices possible. I am convinced that true virtuosity lies in the capacity of all the voices, instrumental and vocal, to fuse their own songs together in the same surge of love.