In the late hours of Dec. 2, 2016, a fire swept through the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland and claimed the lives of 36 people — a loss that left friends, families and the Oakland artist community confused and hollow. Angry and disheartened at the lack of answers and accountability following the tragedy, flutist and composer Arturo Rodriguez began developing Requiem Sinfónica: A Requiem Without Words, a commemorative nine-movement orchestral suite that debuts in full on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Malonga Casquelourd Center in Oakland.
For Rodriguez, the process of writing the requiem mirrored his restlessness about the tragedy. Melodies and themes floated in and out of his head. Unrefined echoes of cello and lower bass notes appeared like shadows, looming overhead as he tried to jot them all down. As Rodriguez contemplated the form of the musical requiem, where the journey of souls toward paradise is traditionally explored through lyricism, he opted to forego a choir and focus on the instrumentation.